Clyfford Still Museum by Allied Works, Denver
Dedicated solely to the work of leading American abstract expressionist Clyfford Still (1904-1980), this new Denver museum was designed by Portland-based Allied Works Architecture, headed up by director Brad Cloepfil.
The famously private artist exhibited extremely infrequently in his lifetime and, after his death, his collection was sealed off from public view until now. ’Our prior knowledge of Still was based on a small fraction of works that were in the public realm, a mere six percent of the artist’s creative output,’ says the Museum’s director Dean Sobel.
The new Clyfford Still Museum proudly houses an impressive 94% of the artist’s oeuvre, spanning his early works from the 1930s to his abstract paintings of the 1960s and 1970s, created after he famously ended his relationship with commercial galleries in 1951. The museum holds a whopping 2,400 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures donated by his wife Patricia Still.
Cloepfil designed the building as an intense and intimate environment for the visitor to experience Still’s work. ’The building is conceived as a nearly geologic experience; one that firmly holds both visitor and art in spaces amplified by natural light,’ he says.
Visitors enter Still’s world in stages, walking from the street to the building, through a serene tree-filled landscaped garden. ’The sequence from city, to park, to building creates a ceremony of repose that prepares the visitor for a personal and very physical relationship with this incredibly important body of drawings and paintings,’ Cloepfil explains.
The building appears dense and sculptural, incorporating two storeys of ’richly worked concrete’. It is, however, a light-filled haven, thanks to a partly perforated concrete ceiling, skylights and side openings. The exposed concrete galleries are intimate and calm, yet spacious.
Clyfford Still Museum includes no less than nine galleries, as well as a library, educational and archival resources, a conservation studio, and storage. The central double-height corridor also acts as an exhibition space, presenting information on the life of the artist.
The freshly opened museum’s first exhibition explores the artist’s early approach to abstraction and includes plenty of must-sees, such as works that have never been shown to the public before, as well as the only three sculptures by Still in existence.