The big blockbuster show, once a rarity, is now common fare at the Denver Art Museum, the Colorado History Museum, the museum formerly known as the Denver Museum of Natural History, and even the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Well, they need to beef up those attendance numbers, don't they? Among these big shows, one stands out above the others: the recently closed Matisse From the Baltimore Museum of Art at the Denver Art Museum. The show highlighted the collection of a pair of wealthy lesbian spinsters, Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta Cone, who put together a major selection of Matisse paintings, some purchased directly from the master himself. Not surprisingly, among the Matisses bought by the Cones were those that took up the topic of the female nude. First among these is the "Blue Nude" from 1907, which means that aside from being the best major show this past year, Matisse also featured the best painting to have ever been exhibited in Colorado.

Readers' choice: Matisse From the Baltimore Museum of Art

Best political use of an art show to get a bigger building

Impressionism Denver Art Museum

Last November, the Denver Art Museum asked voters for a $60 million-plus capital-improvement bond to pay for the construction of a new, freestanding wing. So how could the DAM make the case that it needed the money because it was too damned small? Museum helmsman Lewis Sharp went out and scored Impressionism, a traveling show that broke all of the museum's previous attendance records with more than a quarter of a million visitors craning their necks to see Monets, Cassatts, Gauguins and Van Goghs that had come from museums all over Europe. Denver art enthusiasts not only crowded the Hamilton Galleries on the main floor, but they crowded the rest of the museum as well, and Acoma Plaza outside, and they paralyzed traffic on the West 14th Avenue Parkway. And, yes, they also went out and gave the DAM a landslide in its bond election. The political maneuvering through exhibition scheduling was just the first in a series of brilliant moves on Sharp's part. Another was his decision to look for a master architect to design a world-class building, just as the DAM had done before when it built its current 1971 edifice, which was designed by Italian legend Gio Ponti with local genius James Sudler. Thanks to Impressionism, that new DAM wing will surely be one of the best new buildings to rise on the Denver skyline in decades.

Best political use of an art show to get a bigger building

Impressionism Denver Art Museum

Last November, the Denver Art Museum asked voters for a $60 million-plus capital-improvement bond to pay for the construction of a new, freestanding wing. So how could the DAM make the case that it needed the money because it was too damned small? Museum helmsman Lewis Sharp went out and scored Impressionism, a traveling show that broke all of the museum's previous attendance records with more than a quarter of a million visitors craning their necks to see Monets, Cassatts, Gauguins and Van Goghs that had come from museums all over Europe. Denver art enthusiasts not only crowded the Hamilton Galleries on the main floor, but they crowded the rest of the museum as well, and Acoma Plaza outside, and they paralyzed traffic on the West 14th Avenue Parkway. And, yes, they also went out and gave the DAM a landslide in its bond election. The political maneuvering through exhibition scheduling was just the first in a series of brilliant moves on Sharp's part. Another was his decision to look for a master architect to design a world-class building, just as the DAM had done before when it built its current 1971 edifice, which was designed by Italian legend Gio Ponti with local genius James Sudler. Thanks to Impressionism, that new DAM wing will surely be one of the best new buildings to rise on the Denver skyline in decades.

Best thing to ever happen to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Director Mark Masuoka

In the brief but checkered history of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the fledgling institution, housed in a former fish market, has mostly floundered. But its lack of direction began to change with the dawn of the year 2000, when Mark Masuoka took over as the museum's director. Masuoka had come to town just a year before to take over the Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria campus; he'd barely gotten settled in there when he was offered the MoCAD gig. And he immediately began to turn the place around, establishing the floor plan of the galleries, moving the gift shop, painting, building an information desk, and launching a program in which three shows will run simultaneously instead of only one, as was the previous practice. After a period of confusion, it looks like the MoCAD board finally found some clarity and made its best decision so far: bringing Masuoka on board.

Best thing to ever happen to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Director Mark Masuoka

In the brief but checkered history of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the fledgling institution, housed in a former fish market, has mostly floundered. But its lack of direction began to change with the dawn of the year 2000, when Mark Masuoka took over as the museum's director. Masuoka had come to town just a year before to take over the Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria campus; he'd barely gotten settled in there when he was offered the MoCAD gig. And he immediately began to turn the place around, establishing the floor plan of the galleries, moving the gift shop, painting, building an information desk, and launching a program in which three shows will run simultaneously instead of only one, as was the previous practice. After a period of confusion, it looks like the MoCAD board finally found some clarity and made its best decision so far: bringing Masuoka on board.

Best opportunity to catch up on the latest international art buzz

Contemporary British Artists Denver Art Museum

Last year, new British art made the scandal sheets by outraging New Yorkers when it was shown at the Brooklyn Museum. But months before that, many of the same artists seen in the Big Apple were part of a show right here in the Mile High City. Unlike the exhibit in New York, Contemporary British Artists came and went at the Denver Art Museum without raising nary an eyebrow. Before politics distracted us from the primary aesthetic experience, it was possible to see the work of British youth, from the notorious Damien Hirst to the cerebral Jason Martin, just like back East. Also in the show, which was organized by DAM curator Dianne Vanderlip in collaboration with former assistant curator Jane Fudge, were many older artists -- notably the neo-pop pair Gilbert and George. The show was clearly one of the best -- and obviously one of the most timely -- of a raft of British Invasion shows the DAM has put on in the past few years.

Best opportunity to catch up on the latest international art buzz

Contemporary British Artists Denver Art Museum

Last year, new British art made the scandal sheets by outraging New Yorkers when it was shown at the Brooklyn Museum. But months before that, many of the same artists seen in the Big Apple were part of a show right here in the Mile High City. Unlike the exhibit in New York, Contemporary British Artists came and went at the Denver Art Museum without raising nary an eyebrow. Before politics distracted us from the primary aesthetic experience, it was possible to see the work of British youth, from the notorious Damien Hirst to the cerebral Jason Martin, just like back East. Also in the show, which was organized by DAM curator Dianne Vanderlip in collaboration with former assistant curator Jane Fudge, were many older artists -- notably the neo-pop pair Gilbert and George. The show was clearly one of the best -- and obviously one of the most timely -- of a raft of British Invasion shows the DAM has put on in the past few years.

It was a presentation worthy of a museum -- not the Denver Art Museum, of course, since it pays scant attention to Colorado's rich art heritage, but a museum somewhere else. Exhibition organizer David Cook, who runs a pair of galleries side by side on Wazee Street, used a connoisseur's eye and a historian's judgment to infuse John F. Carlson and Artists of the Broadmoor Academy with a multiplicity of rewards. There were the seldom-seen masterworks by Carlson and other teachers at the long-closed Broadmoor Academy, including Robert Reid, Birger Sandzen and Ernest Lawson, and there was the work of their students -- in particular, dozens of pieces by Charles Bunnell, one of the state's first modern artists. The once nationally famous academy and its successor institution, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, shaped regional art for decades in the first half of the twentieth century, its influence felt all the way from Denver to Santa Fe. Cook not only assembled an impressive clutch of paintings and prints (and even a sculpture or two) by the academy's teachers and students, but he also commissioned an accompanying catalogue written by local art historian Stanley Cuba and salted the show with charming, historical photographs.
It was a presentation worthy of a museum -- not the Denver Art Museum, of course, since it pays scant attention to Colorado's rich art heritage, but a museum somewhere else. Exhibition organizer David Cook, who runs a pair of galleries side by side on Wazee Street, used a connoisseur's eye and a historian's judgment to infuse John F. Carlson and Artists of the Broadmoor Academy with a multiplicity of rewards. There were the seldom-seen masterworks by Carlson and other teachers at the long-closed Broadmoor Academy, including Robert Reid, Birger Sandzen and Ernest Lawson, and there was the work of their students -- in particular, dozens of pieces by Charles Bunnell, one of the state's first modern artists. The once nationally famous academy and its successor institution, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, shaped regional art for decades in the first half of the twentieth century, its influence felt all the way from Denver to Santa Fe. Cook not only assembled an impressive clutch of paintings and prints (and even a sculpture or two) by the academy's teachers and students, but he also commissioned an accompanying catalogue written by local art historian Stanley Cuba and salted the show with charming, historical photographs.
Popcorn ain't just popcorn anymore. For one thing, Landmark Theaters, Denver's leading art-house consortium, pops its Top O' the Crop kernels in low-fat canola oil -- not the heavier coconut oil most theaters use. For another, they drizzle real butter on top, if you like. For a third, moviegoers with the munchies get a choice of savory popcorn seasonings -- soy sauce, parmesan cheese, Spike multi-seasoning or -- don't knock it till you try it -- brewer's yeast.

Readers' choice: The Mayan

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