Unfolding Realities

There's new realism at the Mizel Center, a new spot for the Mizel Museum, and news at the DAM.

When I learned that the Mizel was going to move in next to the DAM, it crossed my mind that maybe the Clyfford Still museum would wind up nearby, too. The site for that proposed museum has not yet been chosen, but Dean Sobel, the director of the Still Museum, told me that the site-selection committee was close to a decision and that the chosen spot would be announced early next year. It will be 2007, however, before the facility itself will be built.

Sobel gave me one tantalizing clue about where the museum might be constructed: He said that if things turn out the way he thinks they will, I will be pleased. Hmm. Well, I did say that I thought the Still museum belonged in close proximity to the DAM. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

"HoldFast," by Geoffrey Laurence, oil on canvas.
"HoldFast," by Geoffrey Laurence, oil on canvas.
Museum Residences by Daniel Libeskind and the 
Davis Partnership, future home of the Mizel Museum.
Museum Residences by Daniel Libeskind and the Davis Partnership, future home of the Mizel Museum.


Through December 30, Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360

Crews at the Denver Art Museum are busy as bees both outside and inside the new Frederic C. Hamilton Building on Acoma Plaza at West 13th Avenue. Save for the landscaping, the exterior is essentially done, with only doors and windows left to be installed and the plastic protective coating to be removed from the titanium panels. The panels, which are soft and sort of wavy, will not change color over time, because unlike copper or bronze, no patina will be produced through weathering.

A lot of people are worried that the canted walls of the Hamilton will not be art-friendly, but when I walked through, I found that the spaces inside were not outrageous. That is, with the exception of the African-art gallery on the fourth floor, which has a dizzying array of oddly shaped walls and ceiling portions.

R. Craig Miller, curator of architecture, design and graphics, has called the Hamilton a museum for the 21st century. He's right. It's so darned complicated that it would have been impossible to do before the age of computer-facilitated design and engineering. For heaven's sake, even the scaffolding was worked out with computer programs. So here's the funny part: The interior is positively Ancient Egyptian in character. Honest. There are many vistas created by the tilting walls, and the passageways cut into them are reminiscent of the interiors of some tombs and temples.

Very few of the final finishes are in place, and construction workers are just putting up the walls, the grand staircase and the mechanicals. However, in the ground-floor special-exhibition space -- now, there's a naming opportunity if I've ever heard one -- the drywall is up and the floors are down. The floors match those in the Gio Ponti/James Sudler-designed North Building (another ripe naming opportunity), having been made from end-cut boards of Douglas fir stained a dark walnut color. The lobby and reception spaces will have black granite floors, as will the grand staircase.

There are many dramatic spaces, with the central atrium being the front-runner. Also impressive, though not as dramatic, is the large special-exhibition space on the second floor, where the Logan Collection will be displayed when the museum opens late next year. The permanent spaces for modern and contemporary art are really something, with one capacious gallery on the third floor and another on the fourth. When the Hamilton opens, there will be three floors of modern and contemporary art. My head is spinning already.

The architecture, design and graphics department will not be housed in the Hamilton, but will remain in the Ponti building and will have an entire upper floor instead of the cramped quarters it formerly occupied. Miller, whom I've described as a connoisseur of the old school, is also very new-school: He was named to ID magazine's ID 40 list, which appears in the upcoming January-February issue. This means he's been identified as one of the forty most important people in the world of design. Miller's entry describes him as a "world-class art historian and design authority" and his taste as being "matchless." His latest project is putting together a show on contemporary European design, and it's sure to become a groundbreaker exhibit, like his fabulous US Design 1975 to 2000, which also debuted at the DAM.

Miller deserves some of the credit for snagging the likes of Daniel Libeskind to design the Hamilton, as he does for Michael Graves's involvement in the Central Denver Public Library, which is across Acoma Plaza from Ponti's DAM. With his worldwide connections, he was able to tip off Libeskind and Graves -- along with other top-ranked contenders who vied for both projects -- that the commissions were out there for the taking. But that's only one of many reasons Miller deserved to wind up on that ID 40 list.

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