The ritzy Colorado ski town has long nurtured, and invested in, creative pursuits.
1. Aspen Art Museum
Walk along East Hyman Ave, past the Victorian-era shopfronts and restaurants until you hit a 3000sq m, box-shaped edifice that resembles a giant wicker basket. This dazzling building is less than 10 years old, but the non-collecting museum it houses was founded in 1979. The heart of Aspen’s contemporary art scene, it’s a recipient of the US National Medal for Museum and Library Services for its educational outreach to rural communities in the Roaring Fork Valley. Climb the glass curtain-lined grand staircase to the fourth-floor rooftop sculpture garden for views of Aspen Mountain, and peruse ever-rotating exhibitions in the 14 exhibition spaces. German figurative painter Florian Krewer’s first American solo exhibition, Everybody Rise, closes on September 24, and a series of artist-led presentations on intergenerational art, Lover’s Discourse, runs until January 2024. Free entry.
2. Hexton Gallery
An exhibition opening at Hexton Gallery is the coolest party in town. Founded by Robert Chase in 1995, its cosmopolitan New York origins permeate the cracked concrete floors and monochrome walls. That trans-continental connection remains a focus, with the Hexton sponsoring remote exhibitions and public installations. Two of those, Shepard Fairey and Carlos Rolon, will unveil eight storey-high murals in New York’s East Harlem, part of the East River Mural Project. Director Agustina Mistretta says the gallery is dedicated to “exploring ideas connected to the human condition, social interactions, and the natural world”. There are about six shows a year, anchored by a central exhibition. This year it’s the land-art survey show Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Ephemeral Nature. December’s display examines the forces that have drawn trailblazing artists to Aspen since the 1950s.
3. Galerie Maximillian
The Maximillian name rings like a Roman master, but this fine-art fixture of the Aspen contemporary scene was actually named after founder Albert Sanford’s Yorkshire terrier. Two dogs, Hank and Lucy, remain in residence to greet the celebrity clientele (former gallery dog Sophie lays claim to having nipped Courtney Kardashian’s son). Sanford (pictured) founded the gallery in 1997 as an alternative to the tourist venues that had proliferated in town, and says a better name might be “Galerie Mishmash”. What began as an outlet for mostly French paintings has morphed into a collection of museum-worthy contemporary art, with new acquisitions from Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Joan Miro and Peter Doig, as well as master prints by Picasso and Matisse. Works are typically POA but you can discover affordable gems among the 10,000-plus inventory. A fantastic gallery for browsing, but maybe don’t pat the dogs.
4. Anderson Ranch Arts Centre
This not-for-profit community centre in Snowmass Village has been a stalwart since 1966, and is as much about the creation of art as its display. Countless creatives have got their start at “The Ranch”, which hosts a year-round artist-in-residence program and regular public events such as the Annual Art Auction and Community Picnic. Studio workshops run parallel with exhibitions, and guests can sign up for five-day sessions in disciplines such as furniture design, woodworking, ceramics, printmaking, wittling and wearable art. Those happy just to observe can tour the studios, visit the gallery, gift shop and outdoor sculptures, and take in rotating exhibitions of contemporary art in the Patton-Malott Gallery.
5. The Bayer Centre
Opened in 2022, this expansive gallery space is a journey into the mind of graphic designer and luminary of the Bauhaus movement, Herbert Bayer. He emigrated from Germany to the US in 1938, becoming an early champion of the Aspen Institute (which he helped design). Built in 1949, the Resnick Centre for Herbert Bayer Studies at the Aspen Institute – as it is formally known – helped put Aspen on America’s cultural map, thanks largely to the prolific output and artistic vision of Bayer, whose footprint is stamped all over town. Showing until
April 2024 is Charting Space: Herbert Bayer’s World Geo-Graphic Atlas at 70, an interactive exhibition with multi-media installations, including a recreation of a 4m cutaway globe built by Bayer in 1943. It relocates countries and oceans to the interior of the sphere, and places the viewer in the centre, giving a unique perspective on the traditional “atlas”.
Ricky French | The Weekend Australian | September 11, 2023