The Denver Art Museum: Not Just for Art Aficionados

Lately I have been feeling in need of some cultural inspiration so I asked Ok Google, “What is the most popular museum in Denver?” Google told me it is the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, rightfully so, but I have already been there twice this year so I decided to go with the second most popular choice: The Denver Art Museum. Yikes. Art. Sounds like a snoozefest! But I figured it has to be the second most popular museum for a reason, so to Downtown Denver I went.

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The building outside alone had my curiosity sparked. There were interesting sculptures, a bridge that connected two large buildings, and the architecture was unique as it was designed to resemble “geometric rock crystals”.

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When I walked into the museum, it instantly reminded me of a dental office. It had that sanitary, lidocaine smell. (Was it just me?) After wondering when I’m due for my next teeth cleaning, I decided to start my self-guided tour in one of the temporary exhibits called The American West in Bronze, 1850 – 1925. Like instinct, I took out my camera and started snapping away. A security guard came running over to me and demanded I put my camera away, which was pretty mortifying. I guess I should’ve learned about proper museum etiquette beforehand.

The one bronze picture I got before my camera was banned

The one bronze picture I was able to take before my camera was banned

I paid $2 extra to do the audio tour of this bronze exhibit and to be honest, I didn’t think it was necessary. The statues had short messages attached to them already and I thought that was all the interesting information I needed. There was a video in this exhibit that showed the process of making one of these bronze statues and I learned it is very extensive! If you have time, stay and watch it.

I headed upstairs and went into the second temporary exhibit, featuring an artist named Tom Wesselmann, called Beyond Pop Art. Because this was a temporary exhibit, again, picture taking was not allowed. There were some really interesting works in here, and some others were a little unusual. Don’t bring kids into this one, or there might be some awkward questions on the ride home. That’s all I’ll say.

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On the other hand, I really enjoyed an exhibit called Daniel Sprick’s Fictions: Recent Works, which was in the Western American Art section. At first I thought they were photographs, but when you look closer, they are actually oil paintings that look incredibly life-like. I couldn’t believe how real they appeared.

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Another level up I found more modern and contemporary art. I feel like this type of art is very interesting, but it often leaves me with question marks. Like the art piece with the foxes and everything else is red. What is up with those foxes? There weren’t any informational blurbs like I found in the bronze exhibit. On the top level (level 4) was a section called Material World where artists took recycled things like plastic, clothes, or charred wood to create contemporary pieces. Again, it was creative and interesting but more question marks. Although perhaps that is the point of art; to interpret it the way you want to. While the subjective aspect of art is fascinating, I think I just like to know the meaning of things.

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Made from recycled materials

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After I got my fill of the modern art, I headed across the bridge to the North Building where cultural, historic works awaited me. I was blown away by all the different types of art to explore. The building was 7 floors and each floor represented a different time or place. Each floor had several different themes. For example, on the Asian Art floor, you could explore India, Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, or Korea.

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Every corner I turned, I was surprised by something new. I could go on and on about all the different great works I discovered, but it is truly something you could only appreciate unless you saw it too. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Tower of blankets – each with a tag that explains the personal story behind it

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Mini-furniture Europeans used in the 1800’s

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This represents a mother and her child who will then have a child of their own and so on. It was also entirely made of mud and straw.

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Buddha on top of an elephant

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Sometimes you find a picture you wish you could absorb into, this was mine. Called “Dream of Arcadia”

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I thought this was interesting. To combat cultural myths, the artist, David P. Bradley, says it best: “For five hundred years, American Indians have had everything taken from them. One of the last valuable things they own is their identity. Now that Indian identity has become a marketable commodity, it is being taken, as well.”

Another great aspect I liked about this museum were the relaxing nooks for reading. They had couches and books available so that people can sit there and read more information about a certain subject.

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I didn’t see any kids at the museum, but there were a ton of kid stations and activities for them to do. I’m sure looking at art isn’t a kid’s idea of out-of-this-world fun, but I thought these interactive areas would be a great way to keep their interest.

Just as my title says, the Denver Art Museum has something for everyone. I am not a huge art enthusiast and I still found this to be really fascinating. It was much bigger than I expected so I am glad I wore my walking shoes. My tips are to not take pictures in the temporary exhibits and allow yourself lots of time to explore all the different areas! My trip to the Denver Art Museum satisfied my cultural craving and in the end, I am glad that I went a little out of my element to observe some of the brilliant, artistic works displayed there.

Details: General admission for Colorado residents is $10 and for non-residents it’s $13. It’s also free on the first Saturday of every month. For food options, they offer a cafe with coffee drinks and grab-and-go food items, a more upscale restaurant called Palettes, and Mad Greens which is a salad and sandwich place across the courtyard. The hours of the museum are Mon: closed, Tues – Thurs: 10 am-5 pm, Fri: 10 am-8 pm, and Sat – Sun 10 am-5 pm.

Getting There: For a detailed map with parking, click here. It is in Downtown, so parking does cost.

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3 thoughts on “The Denver Art Museum: Not Just for Art Aficionados

  1. OOH. The Denver Art Museum is one of my favorite places in the city. One of my favorite exhibits is the baroque furniture gallery (I think it’s on floor 6?), and of course I love behaving like a child and dressing up in the Native American and prairie girl clothing in the western exhibit. By the way, there are membership options for people who like to visit often, and there is a student discount. I’m glad you were able to experience DAM and that it wasn’t a total snooze fest for you! 🙂

  2. Erin says:

    The Denver Art Museum sounds better than I envisioned. A must-see next time I’m in Denver. Thanks for the great info!

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