Nov 21, 2016

Famous Denver Museum Moves to New Site Under Construction

In the end, it was nothing less than a terrific spectacle as hundreds of residents gathered in downtown Denver to watch the red brick, 150-ton, Kirkland Museum studio being moved from its long-time location at East 13th Avenue and Pearl Street to a new site in the city’s Golden Triangle neighborhood.

The move, says Maya Wright, was “incredibly successful and thrilling,” noting that the museum’s partners for the project, Shaw Construction of Denver, and Mammoth Moving & Rigging of nearby Parker, Colorado, “placed eight sets of remote-controlled articulating wheels underneath the three-room brick building,” before transplanting it some eleven blocks away.


Kirkland Museum Exteror before its move, Pearl Street side (original art school/Kirkland Studio is at right, 1910/1911 Arts & Crafts style).  Red sculpture upper left on building, "Point Traveling Through Space at An Erratic Speed #33 (2005) by Robert Mangold; white sculpture in garden, Untitled, from the "Fragiity of Permanence Series," (1996) by Chuck Parson; additional sculptures outside entrance are by David Mazza and Arnold Roonebeck.

The 26 foot-tall building, which has stood at its now-former location for more than a century, is more commonly known as founder Vance Kirkland’s studio, and is in every way a local icon.

The moving project’s origins reach back at least to early 2014 when museum officials announced the construction of a new home for the Kirkland’s vast collection of art, furniture, and household items.

In so doing, notes Wright, communications manager and historian with the Kirkland, “taking the studio to the new site was an essential part of that decision—we would not be Kirkland Museum without it.”

The new facility is being built near the corner of West 12th Avenue and Bannock Street on a site that was purchased by the Kirkland in late 2013 for $4.4 million.

As planned, the new building will house up to 60 percent more gallery space than the original site, and will also have room for a café and gift shop, among other features.

Rendering of the new Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 12th & Bannock, opening fall 2017—including Vance Kirkland’s original studio (at right). Elevation looking southwest on Bannock Street by Olson Kundig.  Provided by Kirkland Museum.  

Work on the rectangular-shaped 38,000 square foot structure, designed by Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects, was launched last fall with the idea that the old studio building would eventually be incorporated into the new building.

“The original structure was completed in 1911 and that is the portion that will be a part of the new site,” notes Renee Albiston, marketing manager with the museum. “There’s an addition to that building that is only about twelve or thirteen years old, and that is staying at the original site.”

The Kirkland is named after the legendary Vance Kirkland, known internationally for, as Ray Mark Rimaldi of the Denver Post puts it, “dotting canvases with tiny dabs of paint arranged into swirling patterns of color.”

Altogether, the original museum, which initially also housed Kirkland’s studio, owns more than 1,000 works by Kirkland, in addition to over 5,300 objects and works by a wide variety of artists and architects including Andy Warhol, Frank Gehry, Frankly Lloyd Wright, and Philip Johnson.

The museum, in fact, is uniquely centered on three collections: international decorative art, Colorado and regional art, and Vance Kirkland’s works.

Given such vast holdings, it was only a matter of time before the Kirkland moved to a new and larger location.

But that new site, besides offering the museum more space, also firmly plants the Kirkland in Denver’s thriving Golden Triangle museum district.

“When we open in fall 2017, we will be located right next door to world-class cultural institutions, including the Denver Museum of Art and the Clyfford Still Museum,” notes Wright.

Preparations for moving the Vance Studio building.  Photograph by Vantage Shot.

The actual move took place over the course of one day, seeing city officials, police officers,  Kirkland staff, and visitors from near and far, among others, watching as the historic studio was slowly but methodically transported to its new home.

The work preceding the move saw traffic lights with swinging arms turned so as to not obstruct the procession. Other light poles were unbolted at their base and turned to the side to clear the way.

With construction still continuing on the new two-story museum, notes Wright, the work connecting the old structure, now at the new site, to the modern facility will be completed next year.

Once the old studio is physically integrated into the new building, and the new building is officially opened, adds Wright, “visitors will be able to walk directly from the new building onto the studio, as they were at the old Kirkland Museum, to see the space where Kirkland painted and the straps above his work table where he occasionally suspended himself in order to create his larger later works.”

Construction on what is officially called the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Arts is expected to be completed by next summer. 


By Garry Boulard

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