For the past 28 years, Dianne Vanderlip has reigned supreme at the Denver Art Museum as the head of contemporary art, one of the museum's biggest and best departments. Over the nearly three decades she was there, Vanderlip built a widely renowned collection with real depth in the art of our region as well as the work of international artists.
Vanderlip officially stepped down on January 12. But two days prior to that, the torch was officially passed to her successor, Christoph Heinrich (pictured), who becomes the DAM's second-ever Polly and Mark Addison Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Heinrich has been chief curator at the Hamburg Kunsthalle for the past twelve years, and he was selected to come to Denver by a seven-member committee.
Mega donor Kent Logan was among the magnificent seven; he and his wife, Vicki, have given the DAM hundreds of works of art, a boatload of money and the promised gift of their home and private museum in Vail. They've certainly earned the right to exert power over decision-making, as they definitely did in this case. Apparently, Heinrich -- despite the "Addison" in his new title -- is the Logans' own curator. (For what it's worth, Mark Addison also served on the selection committee.)
Heinrich has an impressive resumé of exhibitions he's curated, notably Andy Warhol -- Photography, which traveled from Hamburg to the United States in 1999. He's also done scores of other solos and many group shows, including a survey of contemporary Chinese art done last year. During the Vanderlip era, the DAM rarely originated shows, focusing instead on building the collection. It will be interesting to see if Heinrich follows her lead or if he continues to put together temporary exhibits, as he did in Hamburg.
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Heinrich will not take on his new job until September, so I guess the department will run on auto-pilot until then -- and that's no sweat, because Vanderlip put everything in its place before she left.