In the time Sharp has been here, Denver has been the site of a demolition derby, where landmark projects by important architects, including Burnham Hoyt's Boettcher School, I. M. Pei's Zeckendorf Plaza and Lawrence Halprin's Skyline Park, have bitten the dust. The Ponti could have easily been on this list except for Sharp. I say this because in the '90s, many people actually advocated for the demolition of the Ponti.

"It's a great piece of architecture, but it has also proven to be an incredibly flexible space. Just look how differently each of the floors is arranged," Sharp says. "It's also one of the most economical buildings in the country to operate. People talk about the challenges of the Hamilton Building, but the Ponti was as radical when it was opened as the Hamilton is now."

This triumph is more covert than the construction of the Hamilton or the beefing up of the collections, as it has to do with something that didn't happen. Nonetheless, it's one of the best things I can say about Sharp, and I will be eternally grateful to him for it.

Lewis Sharp is set to retire as director of the Denver Art Museum.
Lewis Sharp is set to retire as director of the Denver Art Museum.

Location Info


Denver Art Museum

100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway
Denver, CO 80204

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Central Denver

If I had to explain how it was possible for Sharp to do everything he did while he was here, I'd have to mention the fact that he's consummately charming and extremely affable. In this respect, he has a lot in common with his young Horst Buchholz look-alike of a successor, Christoph Heinrich, who takes over in January, and having that valuable quality is a very good sign for his future success.

Sharp and his wife, Susan, whom he met as an undergraduate at Lewis & Clark College (he later earned a doctorate at the University of Delaware), will continue to maintain their condo in the Museum Residences, giving him a good view of what he's done. "We have too many friends here to leave completely. We raised our two girls here, my son lives here, this is our home," Sharp notes.

But for most of the year, he and Susan will live in California, where they have a home in the oceanside town of Ventura. It's to be a working retirement, though, because Sharp, in partnership with his son, has also purchased 300 acres of citrus groves nestled against the Sierra Nevada Mountains outside Fresno. "We've been putting together the land for five or six years with the idea that when I retired I was going to be a farmer," says Sharp. "So now, rather than looking at a Mark di Suvero or a Joel Shapiro, I'm looking at a tractor, a good old John Deere tractor."

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