$25 MILLION: DENVER ART MUSEUM RECEIVES LARGEST-EVER GIFT
Largest donation in Denver Art Museum history will help pay for major renovation
The Denver Art Museum plans to funnel a $25 million one-time gift into the estimated $150 million budget for renovating its iconic North Building in time for the structure’s 50th anniversary in 2021, officials announced Thursday.
Board chairman and philanthropist J. Landis “Lanny” Martin and his wife, Sharon, pledged $25 million to the museum as the “lead gift and catalyst” to revitalize the museum’s North Building, which opened in 1971.
“The North Building project will help the museum realize its vision to complete its campus so that it connects seamlessly as a whole,” museum Director Christoph Heinrich told The Denver Post via e-mail. “It will enable proper stewardship of a 50-yearold icon of modernist design, and Gio Ponti’s only realized building in North America.”
The seven-story, castlelike structure has long been known as the Gio Ponti building — in honor of the Italian modernist who designed it — but will be officially renamed the J. Landis and Sharon Martin Building once renovation is complete.
The gift, which was announced by Heinrich on Thursday at the Collector’s Choice gala honoring the Martins, is the largest single financial donation in the museum’s history.
“The North Building is considered one of the most significant objects in the museum’s collection, and our family is honored to support the much-needed rehabilitation required to bring it into the 21st century,” Lanny Martin said in a news release.
The project is designed to unify the museum campus, bring the North Building into “alignment” with the Hamilton Building’s 21stcentury systems and offer expanded educational resources for youth and school groups, additional gallery space for the Design and Western American art collections and improved visitor circulation, officials said.
“We are so very delighted to be sharing (the) lead gift with the public, and look forward to sharing more exciting fundraising details in 2017,” Heinrich said.
Heinrich declined to say how much of the $150 million has been raised — or exactly where fundraisers are looking for the rest of it.
The museum draws more than 700,000 visitors annually and is hosting the “Star Wars and the Power of Costume” exhibit through April.
Tuesday, a notice of public hearing was posted outside Palettes restaurant, in the structure attached to the east side of the North Building, announcing the city’s intention to demolish it.
“The South Structure was built in 1954 to satisfy a requirement by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to
receive a major collection of Renaissance artworks in a permanent building,” Shadia Lemus, communications manager for the museum, said via e-mail. “The structure has been repeatedly modified and its use has changed multiple times over the years.”
Because the structure is considered a contributing historic building in the Denver Civic Center Historic District, the city’s Landmark Preservation Com- mission is required to hold a public hearing, scheduled for 1 p.m. on Dec. 20 in the Parr-Widener Community Room 389 at the Denver City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St.
“Anyone may speak in support or opposition at the Dec. 20 public hearing, on any grounds,” said Andrea Burns, Denver Community Planning and Development spokeswoman. “(We) are not aware of any opposition at this time.”
The project will replace the south structure with a three-story (including one below ground), circular glass structure that attaches to the North Building’s east side and equally faces 14th Avenue, the Denver Public Library Main Branch and 13th Avenue.
“Only the South Structure, which houses the restaurant, a special exhibition space and one of the museum’s shop spaces, is slated for demolition,” Heinrich said. “The removal of the South Structure will make way for a new entrance to the museum’s North Building.”
Tryba Architects has been leading the master planning for the North Building project, which began as a structural assessment and feasibility study in 2013. The formal design process launched in early 2016 with Denver’s Fentress Architects and Boston-based Machado Silvetti Architects.
The project is in the initial design phase and the museum hopes to break ground by the end of 2017, officials said. More details will be released next year.
Artworks currently on view in the North Building will be de-installed during the construction phase of the project, after which curators will decide reinstallation plans for the building’s reopening.