Largest do­na­tion in Den­ver Art Mu­seum his­tory will help pay for ma­jor ren­o­va­tion

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John Wen­zel The Den­ver Post

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.

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