Clyfford Still Museum Opens Friday (Nov. 18) in Denver

The Clyfford Still Museum opens in Denver Friday and becomes, along with Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, a museum destination with the lion’s share of holdings in a single artist’s work. While using percentages to describe artistic inventory always sounds weird to my ears, the Clyfford Still Museum holds 94% of the artist’s lifetime work, representing 60 years of his output from 1925 through the late 1970s (Still stopped showing commercially in 1951). Clyfford Still Museum director Dean Sobel has said this trove soon to be unveiled compares to just 6 percent of Clyfford Still works that have previously been viewable at American museums. The artist’s widow, Patricia Still, worked with former Denver Mayor, now Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, to situate the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver.

Perforated concrete ceiling at Clyfford Still Museum

Perforated concrete ceiling at Clyfford Still Museum

Designed by Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture, the Clyfford Still Museum is a cast concrete structure that uses features such as daylighting to illuminate the galleries. Some 2400 paintings are held. Four were just sold last Wednesday evening in New York at Sotheby’s for an astonishing $141 million – including the 1949 painting, 1949-A-No.1,for the record-breaking price of $61 million. The buyer bid anonymously over the telephone and was rumored by New York Observer to include NOT Israel Englander but possibly Alice Walton of the new Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas.

Adam Lindemann called the Stills sold by the artist’s estate to raise money for the Still museum in Denver, Colo. “rare” and “handsome”:

They all sold unbelievably well, but one of them made an outrageous $61 million that night, a number that astounded even the Sotheby’s experts; you could read it on their wide-eyed faces (see them on my website, Only two or three years ago, Bob Mnuchin of L+M gallery offered me a similar large Still painting for $20-some million and I thought he was daft, but after these results, am I now supposed to believe that was a bargain?

The deaccessioning issue has been widely covered including by Lee Rosenbaum (Culture Grrrl), who headlined her piece on the Sotheby’s sale “Denver disposals,” and here by Leanne Goebel who argues a local angle that the sale of the four was to the greater good of the 2400 remaining.

Needless to say, a new museum with 94% holdings of an artist’s estate will probably for a long time be involved even quietly in the market.

In Denver Clyfford Still Museum joins the Denver Art Museum Libeskind wing addition by Daniel Libeskind and the Museum of Contemporary Art by david Adjaye as major buildings (albeit in the Libeskind case highly disliked ones), for art.

Museum director Dean Sobel and Adjunct Curator David Anfam co-curated the first Clyfford Still Museum exhibition which is said to be “a comprehensive survey” of Still’s output 1925-1970s. We will report on that later this month.


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