The Clyfford Still Museum allows visitors the unique experience to understand the legacy of Clyfford Still. He had a unique artistic vision and was unwilling to compromise it for money or recognition. As he evolved as an artist, Still’s works transitioned from outdoor scenes, people, and machinery to more abstract shapes, colors, and lines to express an idea or feeling. He painted on huge canvases to invite viewers to experience and be absorbed by them. Still did not name his works because he wanted people to make their own interpretations.
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Still wanted the majority of his work to remain together because he strongly believed an artist’s work is best understood when it is experienced in large groups or—better yet—in its entirety. To Still, every single artwork plays an important role in the story of his artistic development and vision; every work leads to another, they are all interconnected, and together, they ultimately form one grand life statement.
After the artist’s death in 1980, the Clyfford Still Estate was sealed off from public and scholarly view. His will stipulated that his entire collection be given to an American city willing to establish a permanent museum dedicated exclusively to the care and display of his art. This guaranteed his work would remain together for people to experience in the way he envisioned: united in one place and without the distraction of other artists’ work. Around twenty American cities contended to receive the internationally-renowned Still collection. Finally in 2004, Still’s wife, Patricia, chose Denver to receive the collection after then-Mayor John Hickenlooper visited her home and agreed to the will’s stringent terms. In 2005, Patricia also bequeathed to the city her own estate, which included select paintings by her husband as well as his complete archives.
In 2006, the newly formed Clyfford Still Museum secured a parcel of land within Denver’s Civic Center Cultural Complex immediately west of the Denver Art Museum’s then-under-construction Frederic C. Hamilton Building. Later that year, the board selected Allied Works Architecture, led by Brad Cloepfil, for the Museum’s design.
The Clyfford Still Museum broke ground on its new home in December 2009 and opened its doors to the public on November 18, 2011, reintroducing the life and work of one of America’s most significant yet least understood artists. When the Museum was completed, it received over 830 paintings, 2,300 works on paper, over 23,000 photographs, and thousands of archival objects compiled by the Stills.