24 moments that defined the Aspen Art Museum | AspenTimes.com

24 moments that defined the Aspen Art Museum

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times


Aspen Art Museum, Aug. 10 through 11

5 p.m. Architecture Lecture: Shigeru Ban

6 Press Play (art-making)

7 Art and Astrology Self-Guided Tour

9 Dance Party with DJ April Hunt

11 Scents for ‘Each day is a whole world’ by Etel Adnan

11:30 Susan Philipsz’s ‘From the Beginning’ sound installation

Midnight ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ screening

Through 7 a.m. Sleepover

2 a.m. Bill Viola, ‘The Night Journey’

7 Sunrise Yoga (Taught by Aaron King)

10–noon Community Brunch

Noon Artist Talk: Richard Tuttle

1 p.m. Fireside Oral Histories

2 Family Workshop

4 Whitacre concert


The Aspen Art Museum is celebrating a trio of anniversaries this weekend: 40 years since it was founded as the Aspen Center for Visual Art; 15 years of ArtCrush parties; five years in its Shigeru Ban-designed downtown building.

The museum is honoring its current moment and the four decades past with a 24-hour party, running Saturday through Sunday evening and including talks by Ban and artist Richard Tuttle, art-making, family activities, a community brunch and a concert.

In keeping with the theme, these are 24 pivotal moments that have defined Aspen’s museum:

The city of Aspen acquired the old hydropower plant on the banks of the Roaring Fork River in 1976, following a city vote. Local artists Richard Carter, Missie Thorne and Diane Lewy led the push to make it a contemporary art museum.

The Aspen Center for Visual Art is made official on paper in 1977, with a stated mission “To establish and maintain a visual-arts facility offering educational exposure to a wide variety of visual arts, both passively in form of exhibitions and actively through lectures and guided tours.”

On June 16, 1979, the museum opens its doors with the exhibition “American Portraits of the Sixties & Seventies,” including zeitgeisty artists Chuck Close, Christo, Gregory Gillespie, Willem De Kooning, Diane Arbus, George Segal, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Paschke, Jim Dine, Red Grooms, Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe. It also included Aspen-based photographer Ferenc Berko, and showcased locals Chris Cassatt and Michael Cleverly.

“When American Portraits of the Sixties & Seventies opened in June 1979, it was instantly clear how tragic it would have been for that place and that show to have never happened,” Cleverly wrote in the Times in 2009.

The annual Art Cart Derby, organized by the museum, becomes the definitive locals’ party of the early 1980s, pitting Aspenites and artists in downhill racing competitions on the steep street below Lift 1.

“Of the Street,” an exhibition by the youthful New York street art collective Fashion Moda, draws national attention (and includes Aspenite Don Stuber’s car, tagged in the period’s spray paint graffiti style).

Locals destroy Donald Lipski’s “Beacon Interrogator” Mylar installation on Aspen Mountain in June 1988.

Mounting debt, three director changes, a staff rebellion and what the Times called “a merry-go-round of leadership” threaten the existence of the museum in the early 1990s. Board members including Susan and Larry Marx, Nancy and Bob Magoon and Stefan Edlis come on to save it and shepherd its transformation in the coming decades.

Group show “The Shaman as Artist/The Artist as Shaman” in 1994 includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Agnes Martin, David Hockney and Robert Rauschenberg.

The museum earns accreditation through the American Alliance of Museums in 2003, becoming one of just two accredited museums between Denver and Los Angeles.

Museum director Dean Sobel publishes the revelatory book “One Hour Ahead,” a history of avant-garde art in Aspen since the end of World War II.

Heidi Zuckerman becomes director of the museum in 2005, launching ArtCrush, the Aspen Award for Art and an artist-in-residence program in her early days on the job. She focuses on curatorial criteria for exhibitions including an emphasis on first-time U.S. solo shows by global artists. Her fundraising initiatives include a $75 million campaign that would lead to the completion of a new downtown building nine years later.

Richard Tuttle opens a solo exhibition of drawings and mixed-media work at the museum in December 2005, coinciding with the massive Whitney Museum retrospective in New York.

Artist Yutaka Sone rolls two massive dice down the Superpipe at Buttermilk in February 2006, the first of the museum’s innovative “Art in Unexpected Places” projects that brought contemporary artists and artwork onto ski hills and in public art projects across the community in the years to come. It also would commission artists to create work for Aspen Skiing Co.’s lift tickets.

A gift from Amy and John Phelan in May 2008 makes admission to the Aspen Art Museum free and quickly boosts attendance.

After a heated campaign, Aspen voters reject a ballot initiative in May 2009 that would have enabled the museum to move to the site of the former Aspen Youth Center on Galena Plaza.

Mark Bradford opens a show dedicated to his “Merchant Posters” in February 2010, which would become some of the artist’s defining work (and would become the Skico’s lift tickets for 2013-14).

The Aspen City Council approves a new downtown Aspen Art Museum in August 2010, as part of a lawsuit settlement with local developers.

Aspen Award for Art winner Ernesto Neto makes the final exhibition for the old museum in summer 2014, including interactive sculptures.

The new Shigeru Ban-designed museum opens downtown on Aug. 9, 2014, with 17,500 square feet of exhibition space and opening shows including Ban’s “Humanitarian Architecture” and a joint exhibition of Yves Klein and David Hammonds.

Three tortoises in Cai Cuo-Qiang’s “Moving Ghost Town” are removed from the museum on Aug. 25, 2014. Petitions protesting the use of animals in the work had begun circulating before the new museum opened its doors and drawn international news coverage.

Art and design superstar Takashi Murakami designs the winter 2015-16 Skico lift tickets for the “Art in Unexpected Places” program.

Wade Guyton, Peter Fischli and David Weiss take over the museum, filling every gallery and corridor with new artwork in a massive show in June 2017.

The museum wins the National Medal for Museum and Library Service — the highest honor in the U.S. for museums and libraries for community service — in July 2017 for its extensive education and access program, which provides art education in nine school systems within a 100-mile radius of the museum.

Cheryl Donegan’s solo exhibition in summer 2018 includes a choreographed fashion show, and Alison Knowles stages her “Make a Salad” performance work, epitomizing the museum’s expanded platform of experiential and event-based works in the new building.

Filmmaker and visual artist Rashid Johnson unveils “The Hikers,” an art film made on Smuggler Mountain, and a ballet of the same name in July 2019.