Best Art Museum 2023 | Museum of Contemporary Art | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
MCA Denver

We can't say enough good things about the Museum of Contemporary Art, which revived the Northside's historic Holiday Theater last year by signing a long-term lease to host productions there. And the museum has shown even more local love this year, celebrating RedLine Contemporary Art Center's fifteenth anniversary with a blockbuster exhibition showcasing works from its alumni resident artists. It isn't often you see an institution like this giving so much space and love to local artists, but the MCA is always quick to recognize Denver talent while also providing inspiration from international and national contemporary artists.

Whether you're going to a concert or just hiking around its majestic landscape, a visit to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is an absolute must for tourists visiting Denver. And while you're at it, here's another must: visiting the Colorado Music Hall of Fame museum, located inside the Red Rocks Trading Post. There you'll see ephemera from each Hall of Fame class since the organization's beginnings in 2011, as well as exhibitions on Colorado musical institutions, including the famed Caribou Ranch studio and musicians such as John Denver, Judy Collins, Dan Fogelberg, Dianne Reeves and more. Be sure to also check out the Red Rocks Performers Hall of Fame in the Visitor Center at the top of the amphitheater for another awe-inspiring glimpse into the venue's storied past.

17900 Trading Post Road, Morrison
Marco Briones

Denver is rich in Latino history and owes much of its cultural fabric to that community, so what better way to get to know your city than to visit a museum that celebrates Latin American art? Whether it's a First Friday in the Art District on Santa Fe or just a casual Saturday afternoon, the Museo is the place to see and learn about phenomenal Latin American art, from ancient to folk to contemporary. The nonprofit gallery mounts up to five exhibitions a year; its current display, Colombia: The Corn, the River and the Grave, open through August 19, explores how Colombian traditions are clashing with current conflicts around its natural resources.

Denver Art Museum

Most of the time you go to the Denver Art Museum to explore its widespread, awesome collection of art spanning centuries of creation. Other times, though, you could just be stopping in to purchase a present from the gift shop, because the DAM's store is perfect for perusing when you aren't sure what to get someone. There's something for everyone here, including puzzles, books, posters, jewelry, sculptures, pins, mugs, shape-shifting toys, clothing, housewares and more. Need to buy something for someone who seemingly has everything? This is your one-stop shop for kids and adults alike.

Ready for takeoff? Wings Over the Rockies is full of cool artifacts, both historic and futuristic, that celebrate space and provide an ideal escape for technocrats and other geeks. But those who like to stay more grounded will find plenty of amusement opportunities here, too, including a great gift shop and an introductory video by none other than Harrison Ford.

7711 East Academy Boulevard

The Medusa Collective opened in January 2022 and has been mounting stunning exhibitions that showcase local artists ever since. Created by artists Amanda Wolf and Gina Ilczyszyn, Medusa is more than a gallery; it also has nine private studios for artists to rent, as well as an area dedicated to workshops. The next workshop will take place in May with visionary artist Emily Kell, who will lead a class on creating talismans. Opening nights for Medusa exhibitions, which sometimes include live music and fire performers, are always memorable.

7140 Hooker Street, Westminster
Courtesy of Ant Life

What would you do after spending 999 days riding around the world on a bicycle? Jacob Lemanski took a hit of acid and decided to show the world his art: enormous, psychedelic ant farms. A former engineer, Lemanski used his savings to create Ant Life, a private event space that doubles as a gallery for his beloved ant farms as well as his other art, which includes luminescent light spaces, tapestries he calls "space screens," clothing, beanbags and more. Lemanski has kept the spot booked and busy, hosting everything from wedding receptions to psychedelic mushroom events. He hopes to make Ant Life an established brand, and given that Colorado has legalized several psychedelics, he could well be on his way.

2150 Market Street
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art

Founded by director and curator Hugh Grant in 1996 and opened to the public twenty years ago, the Kirkland Museum isn't just dedicated to its namesake, artist Vance Kirkland, but also to artworks by Colorado artists from multiple major movements, many of whom were contemporaries of Kirkland's. Everything here flows together seamlessly, given that the museum's layout is similar to a living space or series of salons. Here you'll find highly creative sculpture, paintings, drawings, ceramics, fiber art, furniture and more. The entire collection, which also includes international works of decorative art, is worth a visit any time, but the current exhibition, Vance Kirkland's Cosmos, which includes a never-before-seen collection from the influential artist, is a must-see before it closes on May 28.

Gallery 6 had quite the year in 2022, moving from its East Sixth Avenue venue on the edge of Cherry Creek to the heart of the Art District on Santa Fe, where it's had a hearty reception since reopening in May. The space is far larger than the gallery's previous digs, providing ample room for photography from the likes of Denver art-scene veterans Tony Eitzel, Dave Stephens, Kevin Schwalbe and Scott Wilson. Wilson is a co-owner of the gallery, and his stunning "Anger Management," a photo that captures the ferocious beauty of a wild Mustang kicking up dust, nabbed him the Open Photographer of the Year honors at the 2022 Sony World Photography Awards.

918 West 8th Avenue

A denizen of Denver's underground nightlife, Shadows Gather has been sneaking into clubs since before she was legally allowed in. And she continues to revel in the club scene, taking spur-of-the-moment Instax photographs of the raucous moments, faces and T&A of the queer and punk communities. She's gained a big following on Instagram for her snapshots of rebellion that echo the stylings of influential New York photographer Nan Goldin. Her pics have also gotten her flagged on social media, however, given their subject matter, which ranges from a person sniffing poppers to someone doing a bump of blow off a blade. Each picture pulls you in and nudges you to unleash your own badass inner club kid.

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