Experience Art for All at the Clyfford Still Museum

Visitors viewing Clyfford Still painting
Photo courtesy of Clyfford Still Museum.

Designed specifically to display Clyfford Still’s work, the 28,500-square-foot Clyfford Still Museum is home to approximately 3,125 pieces representing more than 93% of his lifetime of work. The building is a work of art and perfectly complements the art collection’s scale, themes, and colors. Still thought the best way to experience an artist’s work was by seeing it all in one place. His overarching vision for his work is to be seen and experienced together as one grand life statement. In his will, Still gave his art and writings to a then-unnamed American city. Denver became home to this extraordinary gift, and the Museum is now part of this vibrant community. 

The Museum’s new exhibition, Dialogue and Defiance: Clyfford Still and the Abstract Expressionists, reflects on the meaning of community. Guest curated by scholar Valerie Hellstein, the exhibition considers the nuanced ways Still was part of an artists’ community in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The fiercely independent Still disdained the commercialized art world and did not think highly of artists who participated. In line with these views, Still withdrew his paintings from the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1951. The following year, however, he surprised many by joining the 15 Americans group show at the Museum of Modern Art, curated by Dorothy Miller. He agreed because viewers could experience his paintings in a separate room but still see them within the context of mid-century American painting. 

Family sitting on bench viewing Clyfford Still painting
Photo courtesy of Clyfford Still Museum.

According to Hellstein, even with his turn away from the commercial art world, he remained in dialogue with his contemporaries, and they discussed and explored many of the same questions and ideas. “When we think of abstract expressionists, we often think of them as isolated geniuses, working alone in their studios—and I don’t want to say there’s no artistic genius—but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” said Hellstein. “Trying to put Still in a visual dialogue with his fellow contemporary artists shows that he wasn’t working in isolation. I hope viewers walking through the galleries get a sense of Still within his community.”

- Advertisement -

The artworks, exhibition text, interactive features in the digital guide, and archival displays highlight key conversations within Still’s community and their impacts on his art. Dialogue and Defiance follows a chronological display of Still’s works in the Museum’s first four galleries. The exhibition will run until January 12, 2025. 

In addition to the exhibition, visitors may explore sound and garden installations inspired by the art on the Museum’s outdoor terraces, glimpse behind the scenes into painting storage and conservation areas, and experiment with various materials in a hands-on art creation studio. The Museum also offers a variety of events for all ages, including free and pay-what-you-wish days, concerts, mediation programs, Maker Mornings family programs, infant art crawls, talks, and more. Children 17 and under are always free at the Clyfford Still Museum. Visit clyffordstillmuseum.org for more information.