Pilgrims' Progress

Philip Anschutz's collection of blue-chip Western art is put through a torturous ride at the DAM.

Although Troccoli says she selected "the finest paintings in the collection" for this show, we must necessarily doubt her when it comes to the later pieces because of her antipathy toward newer work. When I asked her why she had left out, for example, paintings by Broadmoor Academy masters John Carlson and Birger Sandzén done in the 1920s in Colorado Springs, she responded that "strictly speaking, I took all the best paintings, and they didn't make the cut." (Silently contradicting her was a half-hearted Fritz Scholder painting she had selected that was hanging nearby.)

By skipping artists like Carlson and Sandzén -- though several Broadmoor Academy artists are in the show, they are not identified as such -- Troccoli missed the opportunity to use American West to make a contribution to the art history of Colorado.

Minimizing Colorado's part of the equation has become a longstanding tradition at the DAM, but giving the state short shrift in a regional show spotlighting a local collection filled with local material does set a new low standard.

"Blue Sky, Mountain Aspens and the Roaring Hondo," by John Marin, oil on canvas.
"Blue Sky, Mountain Aspens and the Roaring Hondo," by John Marin, oil on canvas.
"Indian Festival in Arizona," by Jan Matulka, oil on canvas.
"Indian Festival in Arizona," by Jan Matulka, oil on canvas.

Details

Through January 21, 303-640-4433
Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway

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Nevertheless, Troccoli's confusing curatorial approach hasn't overshadowed Anschutz's remarkable vision and accomplishment (although it's somewhat ironic to slowly realize, as you walk through the show, that the ruthless capitalist is more of a connoisseur than is the studious curator). So I do agree with Troccoli when she says: "This is a significant private collection that has never been exhibited in Denver before, so people need to take the opportunity to see it."

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