One of the premier museums in Denver: Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, in Denver, Colorado, allows visitors to time travel through about 150 years of art. The evolving collections contain over 30,000 works by more than 1,500 artists and designers, with about 4,400 works on view. The three principal collections are all shown together in salon style:
- A celebrated international decorative art collection from the 1870s to the present with examples of every major design period from Arts & Crafts through Postmodern
- A Colorado & regional art collection from 1845 to the present
- A retrospective of Colorado’s distinguished painter, Vance Kirkland (1904–1981)
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art is dedicated to enriching lives by presenting art and design in a unique and approachable way. The Museum is rediscovering, documenting, collecting, preserving and exhibiting works from over 150 years, beginning in the mid-19th century, of Colorado’s distinguished art history, international decorative art and the works of Vance Kirkland (1904–1981). The Museum serves the general public and scholars through exhibitions, the loan of works and public programs.
History of Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art
In May 1981, artist Vance Kirkland died, willing the majority of his estate to family friend Hugh Grant who had been curating exhibitions for Kirkland. Since Kirkland’s wife had already died and they had no children, Grant became executor of the estate. From 1981 to 1996, Grant mounted exhibitions of Kirkland’s work and that of other artists such as Edgar Britton and Otto Bach. By 1996, Grant became concerned that Colorado fine and decorative art was not being shown in depth in any museum setting. Many exceptional artists of the past were being forgotten.
Using Vance Kirkland’s Pearl Street studio & art school building, the Vance Kirkland Foundation was granted nonprofit, 501(c)(3) status as an operating foundation. In the late 1990s, while Grant took Kirkland’s paintings to nine European countries and Russia with thirteen exhibitions, construction began on an addition to the studio building, which became the first home of Kirkland Museum.
Kirkland Museum opened to the public on April 2, 2003, displaying the works of Kirkland, his Colorado and regional colleagues and international decorative art. Merle Chambers and Hugh Grant were married from 1989–2017. Chambers was influential in the growth of Kirkland Museum and Merle Chambers Fund provided the funding for the new museum building. Chambers is a founding member of the Kirkland Museum Board of Directors and provides ongoing support and guidance. Her support was instrumental in developing the international decorative art collection at Kirkland Museum, considered one of the most important design collections displayed in any North American museum.
Grant has continued to mount special exhibitions, hold the collection together and further build upon it as the museum’s Founding Director & Curator. The museum’s hours, programming and exhibitions have continued to expand, as have the museum’s collections which now total over 30,000 objects.
In January 2014, Kirkland Museum announced plans to relocate the museum to a new building at 12th Avenue and Bannock Street in Denver’s Golden Triangle Creative District. Funding for the new home of the museum is an investment by Merle Chambers and Merle Chambers Fund in the further development of the vibrant Golden Triangle Creative District and Denver’s nationally important art scene.
Vance Kirkland’s studio & art school building is the heart of the Kirkland Museum experience and was relocated to Bannock Street in November 2016, and oriented in the same direction with painting room windows facing north. The new facility is an opportunity to increase the public’s exposure to the museum’s three collection areas.