Visiting the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art is like taking a trip to grandmother's house -- if your grandmother was an obsessive, eminently wealthy hoarder with great but scattered tastes, that is. There are piles upon piles of furniture recognizable as antiques but from a plethora of periods and styles. The basement has narrow walls stacked high with breakable and shiny ceramics, making them terrifying to walk down. And there are a couple of dark cages filled with even more valuable objects waiting to be displayed.
A new exhibit covering Coloradan Abstract-Expressionists opens Friday as part of Denver Arts Week and will run for approximately four months.
Named after surrealist-turned-abstract-expressionist artist Vance Kirkland, the museum is housed in his former studio and includes one of his rooms just as he'd left it. The fabric straps hanging from ceiling, which he used to hoist himself over his large-scale dot-covered paintings, are still dangling. Another bonus? Children under thirteen aren't allowed into the museum because of how close visitors get to fragile objects. But that also means no crying babies.
But when it comes down to it, Kirkland's graphic art is a great accoutrement to the stunning decorative arts collection. Most museums only display 1 percent of their collection, but because of the more-crammed-than-the-usual-minimalist-styled-curatorial philosophy, Kirkland displays 15 percent. There's plenty that's set-up, just out of view. Here are some highlights from Membership and Events Manager Maya D. Wright:
5. This rug designed by Dane Nanna Ditzel looks simple, and that's precisely why it's a big deal. Called the "First Lady of Danish Design" on the museum's description, Ditzel was on the forefront of that colorful but minimalist style known the world-round as being Scandinavian because of Ikea. 4. Kirkland painted this piece called Mysteries in My Garden with waterproof paints on chicken wire so that it could remain in his garden. The sculpture garden is open year around and accessible from a door on the right of the main hall of the first floor. In front of the Kirkland is a sculpture made of found objects by Colorado artist Bob Ragland. 3. The former outhouse of Kirkland's studio has been turned into a modern bathroom used by the staff. Inside it, is a large collection of glassware and ceramics as well as Kirkland's original marble sink. It's behind a rope but to see it, all you have to do is ask.
Currently housed in a one of the basement's caged vaults (but viewable if you just look at the ground), because it's so heavy the staff hasn't figured out how to hang it yet, this is a decorative ornament designed by Hector Guimard made to look like a shield, once part of the Art Nouveau icon that is the Paris Metro.
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Pretzelman is located on a top shelf in the large gallery closest to the entrance. It's tough to notice when you're just browsing but it's a piece of decorative art meant to hold pretzels, no joke.