We love Denver’s co-ops, independent galleries, and project and nonprofit spaces, but every art scene requires quality commercial spaces to serve every kind of collector. Among the generous handful of those thriving in our city, the William Havu Gallery, which opened twenty years ago on Cherokee Street, is certainly one of the best. Bill Havu, the man behind the gallery, was a pioneer in the Golden Triangle, and the first to build out a dedicated building in Denver from the ground up. But Havu’s 45-year career in the arts, which began with a framing shop in Aspen in 1973, started long before that, with a series of early Havu Gallery iterations and an eight-year stint with 1/1 Gallery in LoDo leading up to the present space.
To say the guy’s had experience is a given, and his expertise has grown the Havu Gallery into a respected place where one can go to see top-notch work by established, mid-career artists from Colorado and beyond. As Havu prepares to celebrate the gallery’s twentieth anniversary in the Golden Triangle with a retrospective by twenty-year gallery artist Emilio Lobato (details below), we caught up with him to learn what life is like in the present – and future.
William Havu: When I was first aware of Henry Kahnweiler, and for many years thereafter, he was my inspiration, and therefore my muse. It was his fate to represent some of the most important artists of his or any time, and he fought through tremendous adversity (see two world wars) to keep his gallery moving forward. After watching National Geographic’s series, Genius: Picasso, I became aware that he had to make choices that deferred to his most prolific and profitable artist, Pablo Picasso. The choice was based on profitability, but also probably duty, obligation and a host of other reasons, but left others in the wake.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Sam Scott. We have been friends since 1982, 36 years, and he’s always inspired me.
Jimi Hendrix. I had the great good fortune to be in the right place at the right time and played drums for him (and Noel Redding, of course) in August 1967.
Hunter S. Thompson. I knew Hunter in Aspen, went to his funeral and still have questions.
It is vibrant! Denver is so lucky to have as many co-ops as it does — they are the incubators for the visual arts.
How about globally?
It always seems to me that there are more than enough artists in the world, but the truth of the matter is there needs to be more. Creative people understand the connection between being creative and being a good world citizen. They understand the need to feed the creative and conserve the planet. The worst are those “artists” who make disposable art.
As a gallerist, how would you size up the current climate in the local art world?
The Denver art scene has always been one of high-quality work made necessary by competition in a small market. That has produced a number of galleries that have cultivated a following beyond the local market. I do not think Denver is in the shadow of Santa Fe any longer.
By Colorado, do you mean the state? The people in general? Having been in this market for 45 years, I’m now part of the tradition of arts people who have, for one reason or another, felt marginalized by being in Colorado, a state that for 150 years has imported taste and sophistication. We are now exporting taste and sophistication. The one thing that the state and the people of the state could do to help the arts is to be proud of what’s here and what is being produced by its creatives.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
For me personally, more travel. For me as a gallery owner, fifteen or twenty more years as proprietor of the gallery, and then a succession plan. I’m working on it.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here – or makes you want to leave?
I love this state. I would not leave for anything. I have seen great changes in the art scene in Denver, and most are positive. When I started in 1973, the market was in the shadow of Santa Fe, Los Angeles — heck, just about anywhere that had an art scene. Now, people are coming here to look for art, and we do not disappoint.
This question could get me in hot water, so I will get creative about the creative and name two. One, Jeremy Hillhouse, deceased, was my favorite painter for many years. He was the Denver Art Museum’s installation director for 28 years and a terrific person. The other would be Collin Parson, the son of Chuck Parson, whom I represented back in the day. Collin has become a beacon for the Colorado visual art community, running the galleries at the Arvada Center and promoting Colorado art and artists.
Okay, one more — Hugh Grant. As director of the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts, Hugh has given legitimacy to an untold number of Colorado visual artists, living and dead.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
The 45th anniversary of the business and the twentieth anniversary of the gallery in its current location. Want more? Stay tuned!
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Regan Rosberg. You go, girl!
William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, celebrates twenty years in Denver’s Golden Triangle with Emilio Lobato: Retro-Spectacle, a retrospective of Lobato’s twenty years of representation by the gallery. The exhibit opens with a reception on Friday, September 21, from 6 to 9 p.m., and runs through November 10. Learn more at the William Havu Gallery website and Facebook page.