While to some, Kirkland’s perceived impact may be confined to art enthusiasts familiar with his work, or those educated in Colorado history, the Kirkland Museum is a greatly-respected and unique art institution in Denver, and important to the history of art in the city itself. The arrival of the relocated studio and expansion of the museum in its new space, which is set to open in late 2017, signifies a continued growth of and commitment to Golden Triangle as the neighborhood most representative of museum culture and renowned architecture in Denver.
Kirkland, who arrived in Denver from Ohio in 1929, worked in five different art periods during his career, including realism, surrealism, abstract expressionism and “dot” paintings, a technique which he invented. By the end of his career, he became one of the most significant artists the Rocky Mountain region had ever produced. Kirkland was also responsible for founding the University of Denver’s art program prior to starting his own art school in what is now his recently-moved studio. The Kirkland Museum, which opened in 2003 by converging a second building with this studio space, hosts a collection of more than 1,000 of Kirkland’s works, alongside more than 30,000 artworks by other artists. This significant and growing collection prompted the museum’s expansion and relocation.
His studio, a 1,384 square-foot building designed in arts and craft style-architecture—a movement known for traditional and simplistic artistry that often incorporates folk and floral motifs—was famously chocked full of painting supplies, records and most notably, ceiling-hung straps that allowed Kirkland to hover over his canvases to paint. Everything in the studio moved to its now-current location in Golden Triangle, where it will be joined by a new main building that is part of the expanded museum, which is being designed by prominent Seattle-based architecture firm, Olson Kundig. The building’s architecture will be most notable for its shiny, yellow-colored central corridor made of mosaic and glass panels, which will utilize a vertical orientation similar to those of its minimalist and organically-derived neighbor, the Clyfford Still Museum, devised by Portland and New York-based Allied Works Architecture.
Image below: Relocated studio now rests adjacent to the new museum building under construction in the Golden Triangle.