A real Still life

18 Nov 2011

City of Denver celebrates late artist Clyfford Still with opening of new museum

A museum dedicated to one of the key figures of Abstract Expressionism has been opened today in Denver. Designed by Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture the Clyfford Still Museum preserves and displays 94% of the work of this well-known artist, painter and sculptor including a plethora of works previously unavailable to the public.

Dean Sobel, Director of the Clyfford Still Museum explains: “Still is considered among the most important and influential painters of the twentieth century, though the vast majority of his work has never been exhibited publicly. The opening of the museum provides unprecedented insight into the life and work of Clyfford Still and redefines how the artist is considered within the art historical canon.”

The exterior form of the museum is composed of cast-in-place concrete walls with a variety of textures including a series of thin, vertical lines which protrude in an organic surface pattern, abstractly reflective of the surrounding trees. Internally a long, low reception area is dappled with natural light which penetrates from the galleries above through a collection of skylights.

Ceiling heights within the nine galleries vary in order to accommodate Still’s various works, some of which measure 12ft by 16ft however the majority fit easily into volumes with 11.5ft ceilings. The building’s design responds directly to an underlying desire to reveal the work of Clyfford Still to the general public, with open double-height corridors leading off into painting storage, archives, exhibition spaces, halls and an education gallery, all of which are available for use by visitors.

Despite withdrawing from his relationship with commercial art in the 1950s, Still continued to compose a stunning portfolio of paintings, sculptures and works on paper. When he died in 1980 his compositions were removed from public and scholarly view and Still’s entire estate donated to ‘an American city willing to establish “permanent quarters” dedicated solely to his work, ensuring its survival for exhibition and study’ as stipulated in his will. In 2004 his wife, Patricia Still, selected Denver as the recipient of these treasures and today marks the beginning of a new public appreciation of this talented artist’s work.

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