I was really disappointed to learn that Ann Daley (pictured), associate curator of Western art at the Denver Art Museum, had decided to step down after more than a decade in her present post and after having worked for the museum for a lot longer than that.
Over the years, Daley has been associated with several local collectors, including William Foxley, who once had his own Western art museum in the Navarre, where the Anschutz collection is now ensconced. But perhaps her most notable accomplishment was the installation of the Dietler Gallery of Western Art in the DAM's Frederic C. Hamilton Building. "For a curator to be involved with the installation of a new building was a dream come true," she says. The Dietler is arguably the most high-profile space in the building, because visitors need to pass through it to access the bridge that connects the Hamilton with the Ponti building.
Daley's conception of the Dietler reveals her creativity. Most curators in her position imagine Western art to be limited to Remingtons and Russells, but for Daley the category also includes Christo's work in Colorado, Robert Adams's narrative photos of tract houses, and even a Bruce Nauman DVD of the artist digging a post hole. And once she laid out her fairly radical program in the Dietler, her ideas made perfect sense. The layout was also a practical solution to the problem of the DAM's Western collection being so bare-bones, with the newer works helping to cover the fact that there are so few historic ones.
Another smart thing Daley did was to include Colorado artists — unlike most of the rest of the DAM. "You can have everything encyclopedic at the museum, but you also need a sense of place," says Daley. "That's how you inform people about what it's like here. Maybe it's because I'm a Westerner that I feel this way."
Perhaps, but I'd say she did what she did because she's so smart, and that's why her influence at the DAM will be so sorely missed.