When you think of mid-century art giants, the painter Clyfford Still might not pop into your head first. He sold only 150 paintings in his lifetime (1904-1980). That’s because he severed all ties with art galleries at the peak of his career. He lived in New York in the 1950s – at the height of Abstract Expressionism – and was friends with de Kooning, Pollock and Rothko. But he got turned off by the commercialism of the art world and even his own boosters, like Peggy Guggenheim and Betty Parsons. So he and his wife moved to the country, in Maryland. One year before he died, in 1979, the Metropolitan Museum of Art held a retrospective of his work (at the time, the largest afforded by the Met to the work of a living artist). But upon his death, his work was sealed off from all public and scholarly view.
Still’s will stipulated that his estate be given in its entirety to an American city willing to establish a permanent museum dedicated solely to his work. In 2004, the City of Denver (with the help of then Mayor John Hickenlooper who became Governor of Colorado in 2011) was selected. Today, the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver holds 94% of Still’s work in a stunning 28,500 sq. ft. building with nine galleries. With a collection comprised of 2,400 works, it will take decades for the museum’s curatorial team to exhaust themes for exhibition. Currently showing: “Red/Yellow/Blue (and Black and White): Clyfford Still as Colorist.”