Colorado Museums and Galleries
Clyfford Still Museum
1250 Bannock St., Downtown
Clyfford Still sold very few of his paintings when he was alive, believing that they were best shown only alongside his other paintings, under very specific conditions. When he passed away in 1980, he left his entire estate (which represented more than 95% of his total output) to whichever city would mount a permanent museum devoted to his work. The city of Denver was selected to receive the collection in 2004, and in 2011 opened a Brad Cloepfil-designed building to house the collection and rotating exhibitions of Still's artwork. Strolling through the rooms filled with Still's toweringly big pieces is unlike anything else—and something you truly can only experience in Denver.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
2001 Colorado Blvd, City Park
One of the better nature and science museums we've visited, the scientists at DMNS lead globally significant work, including the excavation of an important archaeological site at nearby Snowmass Village, called the Snowmastadon Project, where they excavated thousands of fossils, including the bones of a Columbian mammoth. In addition to the requisite planetarium, gems and minerals collection, fossils, mummies, and taxidermy, they also have one of the region's only IMAX theatres. In 2014, the museum completed the brand-new Discovery Zone, a totally interactive space for kids ages 3-5, where littles can excavate fossils, play with water features, and create art projects.
1485 Delgany St., LoDo
MCA Denver Director Adam Lerner first got the attention of the museum world with his quirky "Mixed Taste" program, which presented talks by lecturers from completely different fields on topics like "Porcini Mushrooms & the American Ideal," "Ukulele & Afrofuturism," or "Tomatoes & Leonardo da Vinci," which had the effect of making contemporary art more accessible by infusing it with laughter and lightheartedness. Since then, the museum (which occupies a gorgeous David Adjaye-designed building and is marked by a giant, blinking, rotating heart sculpture by Tim Noble and Sue Webster) has garnered further attention for some groundbreaking exhibitions, including originating the first Marilyn Minter career retrospective, and an exhibition of Basquiat works from the critical, formative years of 1979 and 1980. Parents of Denver teens should know about Failure Lab, their internship program for a select group of Denver teens who spend the year making artwork, planning programming and drop-in events, and working with professional artists to create new projects. Oh, and if you happen to be in town for one of their openings, locals will tell you they throw the best parties in town.
The Denver Art Museum
100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy, Downtown
Denver's big encyclopedic museum (which has more than 70,000 works in 10 permanent collections) is one of the biggest museums between Chicago and the West Coast. The museum itself is made up of two architecturally significant buildings: the 1971 Gio Ponti-designed North Building, covered in more than one million shimmering gray tiles and the modernist designer's only completed work in North America, and the dramatic and iconic Daniel Libeskind building, reminiscent of the Rocky Mountains, with sharp angles jutting out from the center in every direction. They always have a few selections on display from the permanent collection, but you can also see major traveling exhibitions here—a few of their recent blockbusters have included an exhibition of Star Wars costumes, a exhaustive collection of vintage Cartier jewelry, and a selection of Van Gogh works in an exhibition titled Passport to Paris.
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