Praise flowed as freely as the fine Silver Oak wine at “Unveiled,” the Oct. 15 gala celebrating the completion of the Denver Art Museum’s $175 million renovation and expansion.  

The project, over a decade in the making, resulted in a “reimagined” campus with an elaborate remake of the 50-year-old North Building that was Italian architect Gio Ponti’s only completed building in North America and the addition of the stunning Sie Welcome Center.  

The gala, which raised $1.5 million, was an event as unique and elaborate as the venue itself.  

It was a night where 600 guests, all dressed to the nines, could explore the beautiful new spaces and where the architects, gallery designers, construction team and museum staffers could relish the praise for a job well done. 

It also was a night filled with the joy of being part of a crowd that appreciates and supports the important role that art plays in everyone’s well-being. And, a night where the generous souls who donated millions, thousands or hundreds of dollars could bask in the knowledge their generosity will be enjoyed for generations to come. 

“It really is beautiful,” said Jane Hamilton, as she paused to admire the ground floor of the Sie Welcome Center. Hamilton’s late husband, Fred, was a past chair of the DAM board and the one for whom its Hamilton Building is named. She also donated 22 Impressionist paintings from her husband’s collection to the DAM, “And now we have the right real estate to display them,” said museum director Christoph Heinrich. 

The new and expanded spaces, Heinrich added, were designed to be both welcoming and inclusive. “Art unites us all,” he said. “It opens a vista to the joys and complexities of life.” 

His wife, Kira van Lil, an assistant professor of modern and contemporary art at the University of Colorado Boulder, wore the red dress that she had worn when she and Cristoph were married in Frankfurt, Germany, 27 years ago. 

Their wedding, she recalled, was “on a similar fall day,” and because both the wedding and the gala were “very special occasions,” a decision to reprise the dress was an easy choice. 

“I love, love, love this building,” gushed Scientific and Cultural Facilities District chief Deborah Jordy, whose arts career began at the DAM. She started as an assistant on the exhibition design staff and worked her way up to associate curator of modern art. 

Barry Hirschfeld described the Martin Building’s design, by the architectural team of Jorge Silvetti and Stephanie Randazzo Dwyer of the Boston firm Machado Silvetti and Curtis Fentress and Fentress Architects of Denver, as “a total knockout.” It is, he added, “A great tribute to Gio Ponti. Sometimes people don’t like anyone messing with their stuff, but (if Ponti were still alive) he would have loved it.” 

Hirschfeld and his wife, Arlene, provided funding for the A. Barry and Arlene Hirschfeld Family Atrium that is on the Martin Building’s first floor. Barry is a past chair of the DAM board and Arlene is the DAM’s longest-serving trustee. 

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock predicted that the Sturm Grand Pavilion atop the Sie Welcome Center will become “Grand Central for weddings and other celebrations.” 

The DAM’s original plan for a $150 million expansion and renovation, which grew to a $175 million project, was launched by a $35.5 million voter-approved bond issue, and a capital campaign yielding donations that included gifts from Lanny and Sharon Martin ($25 million) Anna and John J. Sie ($12 million) and $25 million from a donor who chose to remain anonymous. 

Lanny Martin is chairman of the DAM board of trustees, former chief executive officer of NL Industries and founder/managing director of Platte River Ventures. John Sie founded the Starz television network and with his wife has donated millions to Down syndrome research and treatment that was inspired by granddaughter Sophia Whitten, who was born with Down syndrome.  

Anna Sie said completion of the Welcome Center is “a dream come true and (John and I) are so happy to be here to see it.” 

The DAM’s public reopening is Oct. 24. 

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