Best Art News for the City Denver 2002 - The Harmsen Collection
For most of its history, the Denver Art Museum paid little attention to the art of the American West, so vital to our region. But if the museum turned up its nose at Western painting and sculpture, private collectors did not. Among the top rank of these collectors are Bill and Dorothy Harmsen, the couple that started the Jolly Rancher candy company and were thus able to find the money needed to gather thousands of works. The loot ranges from paintings and sculptures to an entire stagecoach. For years, the Harmsens shopped their collection around to institutions in order to find a permanent home for it, and there were even plans a couple of years ago to build a Harmsen Museum in Lakewood, but that never happened. Then, in a surprise move last summer, the DAM announced that the Harmsens were giving their collection to the museum. The huge gift led to a change in programming at the DAM, which will now give additional weight to regional art -- and not just old cowboy and Indian paintings, but modern and contemporary art as well. To the DAM, we say: "Welcome home."