I spent five hours today strolling through the seven levels of DAM (though the first floor is where the ticket office and the gift shop are, so it doesn't really count), climbing the stairs from level to level rather than riding the elevator to the top and working my way down, which might have been kinder to my knees. Without exaggeration, I believe the Denver Art Museum is the best city museum I've ever been to. It's not that it has a wonderful collection of well-known Old Masters or Impressionists (there were a few), but what they have is neatly and accessibly arranged, and not rigidly oriented in chronological order, but instead by geographic region. Furthermore, they have comfy seating and books in each room for adults who want to relax and read more about the exhibit or genre represented, and for children they have exploration stations where they can work puzzles, do craft projects, or play dress-up with mini versions of displayed garments. I've been to many museums in major and minor cities on three continents, and I've read and written about many more, and for collections management I think nobody has yet beat DAM.
For one thing, besides noting the amenities listed above, I was pleased to learn several new pieces of artistic information from my visit, and able, thanks to the details offered by artifact-captioning, to put into context some random trivia that I already knew. Japanese lacquer work had a dedicated room, and in the middle was a careful, step-by-step model of how each technique was accomplished (the model itself had taken its maker three years to complete)--I don't know that modern Russian boxes really qualify, since they use a totally different technique. I saw a set of "castos" pictures which delineated sixteen racial combinations recognized by colonial Spanish law--my Anthropology professor at Georgetown had talked about them at length, but I had never actually seen an example. The Korean room was disappointingly small and drab, but the Chinese area had everything from pre-kingdom pottery to Socialist Realism calligraphic paintings. I found out that a small panel painting of the Archangel Michael which I bought at the consignment shop where I used to work was probably painted around 1720 in Peru, and the sculpture my mother and I acquired from a dark antique store on a trip to Charleston was made of bamboo (not wood, as we'd long assumed), and is probably between 100 and 200 years old.
There were so many curious and lovely items to see on each floor! Pictures (without flash) were allowed, and once I figured out how to disable the flash feature on my camera, I happily snapped away. Most of this recording was so I could reference the photos as inspirational examples once I am again settled within reach of my art supplies. Some, however, was just because I thought the subject was unusual, quirky, or cute. Some examples (I realized when I was uploading that I'd chosen mostly drab ceramic examples--there were a lot of pretty, brightly-colored things, but the following may have appealed to me more because they were easily overlooked):
Before I got into the museum, I chanced upon life imitating art...
This is what I am going to look like after a week of Hermione and Charles' delicious cooking.
Look at the adorable little claws!
I've been nuts about tripodal pre-Columbian pots since I was working on my certificate in museum management, and I've made many face pots myself, but this was the first time I'd encountered a tripodal face pot!
The figure has teeth, and its headdress is smiling!
The Paris Hilton of her day--complete with little dog.
Now, THIS is what a well-designed tiara looks like!
I thought my mother would like this one--instead of the conventional Neptune supporting the ship, here we have an attractive, muscular cloisonné mermaid doing the honors for a galleon made of rock crystal.
Notice anything odd about this detail from a colonial painting of the Adoration of the Magi? I couldn't place it at first, but then it suddenly struck me: Mary is wearing an earring!! When have you ever seen a depiction of the Holy Family, or the Madonna, where she is wearing earrings?
The cutest little lacquer bat ever.
Why just look at the paintings when the frames are so beautiful?
Tomorrow I intend (the rainy weather is due to continue) to drive to Colorado Springs for the day.