Aspenites get first look at Bayer Center
Community open house welcomed first visitors to new museum
Aspen’s newest museum opened to the public for the first time Thursday, as the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies welcomed more than 200 visitors for a community open house.
The 8,000-square-foot, 13-gallery museum devoted to Bauhaus master and Aspen icon Herbert Bayer — located on the southern edge of the Aspen Institute at Gillespie Street in the West End — is expected to open with limited hours as early as May and to open full time in June.
Among those getting their first look at the museum and its inaugural exhibition, the career retrospective “Herbert Bayer: An Introduction,” was the artist’s granddaughter, Koko Bayer.
“I am blown away by it,” she said. “It’s a world-class museum and it’s amazing that it’s here. As a family, that is something we’ve been hoping for a really long time.”
The “Herbert Bayer: An Introduction” exhibition runs through December. The career retrospective includes 170 works made from Bayer’s teen years through his 80s.
This facility, spearheaded by Institute supporters Lynda and Stewart Resnick with a $10 million gift in 2019, was completed in late 2021. It had been slated to open in December, but has remained closed due to the pandemic and this winter’s surge of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Small group tours started in March.
For the community open house, the museum opened from noon through the evening, when the Institute hosted a reception next door at the recently renovated Bayer-designed Boettcher Building.
“We’ve had a steady flow of people, and the whole community is really thrilled,” associate director Lissa Ballinger said as an eager evening crowd began filing through the museum.
In his welcoming remarks, Bayer Center executive director James Merle Thomas said the wide spectrum of locals’ familiarity with Bayer has been striking in his first months on the job. Some, he said, ask “What exactly is a Herbert Bayer?” while others “describe to me how they were honored to have mowed Herbert Bayer’s lawn or worked as a dentist cleaning (Herbert’s wife) Joella’s teeth.”
The new museum, Thomas suggested, will bridge the gap between those groups and tell Bayer’s story in a complete way as part of its broader mission.
“Having a decades-long commitment to celebrating Bayer, the building represents a milestone in our history, which can now fully contextualize Bayer, one of the most influential artists and designers of the 20th century, and one of (Aspen’s) most important and beloved figures,” he said.
Thomas jokingly referred to the open house as a “secret job fair,” noting the numerous job openings for educators and visitor services staff at the Bayer Center that he and his team are attempting to fill before the museum opens full time for summer.
Koko Bayer, who is making a documentary about her grandfather, marveled at the fact that the new museum stands in the place where her grandfather worked and inside of the Aspen Institute campus that he designed.
“It’s great the work is actually being appreciated —and in the place where so much of it was created,” Koko Bayer noted, standing outdoors steps away from the newly installed Bayer-designed gates from the artist’s “Chromatic Progression” series, which serve as a conduit to the Bayer Center and the Institute campus. “That is kind of magical and rare.”