Art News

Reader: We Should Have World-Class Art in Denver

Sheraton Denver Downtown
The future entrance of the Sheraton Denver Downtown, off the 16th Street Mall.
The Sheraton Denver Downtown just announced an $80 million hotel renovation that will change the face of the hotel as well as a stretch of the 16th Street Mall. The project involves redesigning all 1,231 guest rooms, renovating 133,000 square feet of meeting space and redoing the entry right off the mall to create "a new arrival experience."

To make that happen, a longtime feature of the entry has disappeared: "Ballerinas," the sculpture by Ruth Keller Schweiss commissioned by former owner Fred Kummer, who in 1995 got a $25 million incentive from the Denver Urban Renewal Authority to remodel the hotel (then Adam's Mark); he also received permission from the city to tear down Zeckendorf Plaza with its I.M. Pei-designed hyperbolic paraboloid in order to realize his vision.

The new owners of the hotel decided to remove "Ballerinas" from center stage and donate the work to the Art District on Santa Fe, where the dancers will grace an area by the Colorado Ballet building.

While some readers are sorry to see them go, others had suggestions for what public art should dance off the scene next.

Says Angela: 
I liked when they dressed him for different things, that was pretty cool. Although it took me a long time to figure out they were dancing ballerinas.
Says Michael: 
So happy to see them go.
Replies Leisl: 
I love those statues. I hope to still catch a glimpse of them in their new spot.
Suggests Jeannie: 
With all the money flowing into developer's pockets, we should have world-class art. They contribute NOTHING to the community. "They are part of the landscape now, therefore I love them."

Why doesn't someone get rid of the stupid bear?
Echoes Robert: 
Good time for voyeur pervert blue bear to hit the highway next.
Adds Kathi: 
When can we get rid of that embarrassing horse by DIA?
Responds Ben:
 People complain about this, but there is literally an "art" piece on West 13th Avenue of a giant broom sweeping trash out of a dust bin onto the ground...
Says Frankie:
 I didn’t mind the ballerinas, but despised the fact that they got rid of such an incredible piece of architecture when they demolished the I. M. Pei Zeckendorf parabola....
Asks Tyler:
 Why does this city try to rid itself of anything artistically interesting?
Suggests Michael:  
You people would be bitching no matter where you lived. Whiny li'l bitches.
Concludes Karin:
This is some top-notch journalism! I, for one, was dying to know what this one random reporter thinks of these sculptures.
"Ballerinas" has moved off the 16th Street Mall. - WALLY GOBETZ/FLICKR
"Ballerinas" has moved off the 16th Street Mall.
Wally Gobetz/Flickr
As noted in my piece about the imminent departure of "Ballerinas," I thought the sculptures were pretty ugly, and not just because they looked out of place off the 16th Street Mall. They also represented an ugly time in Denver's history, one I'd reported on at length, when the city refused to give landmark designation to I.M. Pei's iconic structure, which had garnered worldwide acclaim.

At least the hotel's new owners recognize Pei's contributions that remain downtown, including the 16th Street Mall designed by the firm of I.M. Pei and Partners in collaboration with Hanna/Olin (now called OLIN). "Drawing inspiration from the grandeur and light of I.M. Pei’s original design, the new porte-cochere, lobby entry, and signature bar create a striking statement at the east end of 16th Street Mall," the project announcement proclaims.

Like "Ballerinas," other pieces of public art in the public eye get mixed reviews. That blue bear looking into the Colorado Convention Center is officially "I See What You Mean," a sculpture by the late Lawrence Argent. The "embarrassing horse" is actually "Blue Mustang," by Luis Jiménez, who died making the sculpture that's part of Denver International Airport's original art collection. And that dust pan by the Denver Art Museum is "Big Sweep," by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

What do you think of "Ballerinas"? What's your favorite piece of public art in Denver? Post a comment or email [email protected]