The view from my hotel window shows the reason I’ve come to this city: the Denver Art Museum’s two buildings, one a modern hodgepodge of jutting roof angles and, across the street, the original building that, to me, has always looked as though the Wicked Witch of the West should be circling it on a broom.
That’s appropriate, because this Denver hotel is itself an art gallery. The entire ground floor at 1201 Broadway consists of a gallery featuring work by the likes of Sol LeWitt, Tracey Emin and the “Big Sweep” team of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. There’s even a fish sculpture by architect Frank Gehry.
It’s only after you take the elevator to the fourth floor that you reach the check-in desk for the 165-room Art Hotel. Actually, the name is The Art, A Hotel – a bit eye-roll-inducing, but if you’re going to plop a new hotel smack in the middle of Denver’s art museums, its History Colorado Center and the Clyfford Still Museum, you can call it what you like as long as it’s chock-full of art and artistic touches.
And it is. William Wegman’s dogs entertain us in an elevator video, “Up Down Up.” A Luis Jiménez painting, “Mustang,” brightens a meeting room’s wall.
Numerous art pieces grace the fourth-floor lobby. Near the check-in desk on the fourth floor, a cast bronze (that looks for all the world like driftwood) horse by Deborah Butterfield is posed by the door to the bar’s outdoor deck, seeming to invite us to step outside. But we find the deck full of a convention party, so instead I enjoy a Jackson Pollock cocktail (rosemary-infused gin and muddled strawberries, with drips of balsamic reduction down the side) at a table beneath “Eight Soups,” a John Baldessari homage to Matisse and Andy Warhol.
The minimalist rooms at The Art (thearthotel.com), which start at $199, are painted gallery off-white, with a large photo on the wall — in our case, of a cloud over Leadville, Colo. Three colorful pillows punctuate a white bed against a dark blue carpet with rivulets of lighter blue apparently in a nod to the South Platte River that runs through the city. The fish-shaped soap in the shower is just plain fun.
From this base, we explore what’s going on in the nearby cluster of art and history:
Denver Art Museum: There’s always a lot going on at the DAM. We reveled in a tribute to western film (my husband wore a big smile from the moment he heard the strains of “My Rifle, My Pony and Me” from “Rio Bravo” as we entered), but it closed Sept. 10. However, “Mi Tierra,” an exhibit of Latino artists, continues through Oct. 22, and “Common Ground,” moving photography by Fazal Sheikh, will remain until Nov. 17. A fun exhibit of contemporary chairs will run through Nov. 19. “Her Paris,” a look at women artists during the impressionist age, looks promising for a run Oct. 22-Jan. 14. The museum’s at 100 W. 14th Ave.; denverartmuseum.org. General admission is just $10 (that’s a whole lot of museum for a tenner), and anyone 18 or younger gets in free.
Clyfford Still Museum: Tucked behind the DAM, this one-artist museum quite simply shows us why we love abstract expressionism. It’s just so expressive. What you’ll always find in this museum is more and more Clyfford Still — the museum rotates his work under various themes — and it never fails to engage. The museum’s at 11250 Bannock St., clyffordstillmuseum.org; admission $10; under 18 free. (By the way, there’s also a Still painting at the Art Hotel.)
History Colorado Center: It’s a history museum, so when you see the western American art exhibit that runs through Feb. 11, you’ll find each work accompanied by artifacts from the center’s collection to tell the story behind the works created by Remington, Bierstadt and their compadres. There’s also a tribute to Rocky Mountain National Park, and who doesn’t love Rocky Mountain National Park? It’s at 1200 N. Broadway; historycolorado.org; admission $12 adult, $10 student, free 5 and under.