Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Emperor's New Clothes

Pablo Picasso Was Never Called An Asshole
-Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers

Friday was a cold, cloudy miserable day with a horrid dampness in the air that we seldom feel here in semi-arid Boulder so we decided that an indoor activity was on order for our day off. We went to the Denver Art Museum 16 years ago when we first moved here and it was so lame that we never went back. Admittedly both of us are spoiled as I grew up going to the Art Institute of Chicago and he lived in Edinburgh, Scotland where you can't go more than a block or so without running into an art museum. But some years ago they built an addition to the Denver Art Museum so we thought it was worth the 40 minute drive down to Denver to check it out. Plus we were able to have lunch at our favorite little breakfast place downtown as a bonus.

As you can see from the photo above the addition is, well, interesting. Here's a link to some other photos of the building. It's even more disconcerting from the inside. In fact both Jonny and I were getting such bad cases of dizziness/vertigo that we ended up using the regular fire escape staircase. One room was so horrible that I couldn't even look at the art. The walls rose up at such a sharp angles that I had to put my hand on a wall to steady myself. I hate pretentious, non-functional architecture. We kept running into a tour of the building's architecture and basically the tour guide kept saying how crap the building was, 'This room is particularly challenging for displaying art because of all the shadows cast by the angles of the walls' etc., etc. It made me want to never vote to support these types of civic projects with taxpayer money ever again. The whole hideous building is a tribute to someone's big, fat overinflated ego. Oh and the art sucked too but I'm not a big fan of modern art in the first place.

There was one good exhibit of American art in the new building but that was about it. The most interesting/controversial painting was George Catlin's 'The Cutting Scene'-a portrayal of the Mandan O-Kee-Pa religious ceremony that was fairly brutal (the reproduction in the link pales by comparison to the original which is more graphic and vivid). The old building had most of the same old stuff we'd seen 16 years ago-floor after floor of pottery, clothing & other artifacts that in my opinion belong in the Natural History Museum, not the art museum. I suppose technically they are art but I want to see paintings and there were very few of those. There were a couple of good pieces, my favorite being American Indian Gothic, a send up of the famous 'American Gothic' painting that sits in the Art Institute of Chicago. Another good one was a painting of John Wayne with one of his lesser known quotes written below: 'I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves. '

One other interesting find was the tack the Native Americans used on their horses. One bridle was nothing more than a single piece of heavy twine looped around the horse's muzzle with a single rope for the rein. They must have been very good at training/handling if that's all they needed to control their mounts.

Also interesting to note was the way the dogs looked in the older paintings. None looked like any of the modern breeds and their builds looked so much healthier than what you see in modern breeds.

It was fun to have a day out in the city but I don't think we'll be returning to the Denver Art Museum anytime soon.


  1. roxanne3:43 PM

    I haven't been to the art museum in eons, and I minored in art in college. I have heard though that the wall angles and such make people feel nauseated. Gee ... that's a good time. Let's go see some art and barf.

    I'm a big fan of the Foothills Art Center in Golden. They do some nice shows there.

  2. It's funny, I don't go to art museums much, but when I do, I always look for dogs in the paintings, and it's interesting how very common they are, especially in older works. I also can seldom identify what we'd recognize as a modern breed, although types are usually obvious (hound, herding, terrir...) but it's clear that dogs have always played a significant role in people's lives. Somewhere I have--or have seen--a photo of a corgi that was taxidermitized (what's the verb for that? other than "stuffed"?) about 100 years ago and it looks nothing like the mutant dwarfy things that we have now. Tried just now doing a google search & can't find it.


  3. I'll have to check out the Foothills Art Center. The North Boulder Rec Center has art by locals hanging in the hallways and it's way nicer than 80% of the stuff I saw in the museum.

    Somehow there's something rather sad about a stuffed corgi. I'm sure most breeds were probably way healthier 100 years ago, or even 50-60 years ago. I remember a time when German Shepherds didn't look half crippled when they walked.

  4. OK, it wasn't a corgi, it was a dachshund.


  5. See, that is a normal looking dog. Why would you want to give it teeny tiny legs? How many modern day dachshunds are actually hunting badgers in tiny holes? The AKC has much to answer for.