Modern Masters from Buffalo Museum Brightened Denver in 2014

In March 2014, the Denver Art Museum opened Modern Masters: 20th Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The show featured works by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe, and dozens of other creators whose artistic influence continues to inform the 21st century. Located in Buffalo, New York, the lending institution, now known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, was established as The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy in the 1860s and is one of the United States’ most long-lived art collections on view to the public.

Denver Westword’s arts blog, called Modern Masters, is a distillation of the wide range of 20th-century art history. A Jackson Pollock piece was a centerpiece of the exhibit, displayed among a stunning series of abstract expressionist pieces. The exhibition also featured works from before the turn of the century, including Paul Gauguin’s 1892 Spirit of the Dead Watching from his Tahitian period. Within the rough chronological arrangement, there were also sections on cubism, futurism, and surrealism.

Critics found Miro’s 1924-25 Carnival of Harlequin to be among the standout pieces of the exhibition. Its colorful play of images evokes a Mardi Gras celebration, with the figure of the sad and lovesick Harlequin and his guitar among a host of animals, insects, and shapes.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery came by its magnificent modern collection through bequests from two very wealthy donors, A. Conger Goodyear and Seymour Knox, Jr. Goodyear’s acquisition of the then-controversial 1906 painting La Toilette by Picasso resulted in his being ousted from the museum’s board of directors, although he continued to donate art to the institution until his death, as well as in his will.