On Thursday, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) announced a merger with its next-door neighbor, the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, ushering in what the two institutions promise will be an epic new era for art in the Mile High City. The Kirkland is set to become the Kirkland Institute of Fine and Decorative Art at the Denver Art Museum, where it will add its collection of 30,000-plus interior-design-focused pieces to the DAM’s 20,000.

“Over the last 20 years, the collection at the Kirkland has resonated with its visitors, and we want it to be seen for generations,” says Sally Leibbrandt, board member at the Kirkland. “The board’s responsibility is to continue to explore ways to expand that visibility and exposure. We feel really good about our relationship with the Denver Art Museum and know that they’ll be a great steward for the future.”

The process of merging the two museums is set to take between 12 and 18 months, according to a joint press release. And while nothing is set in stone, DAM and Kirkland staff hope to expand educational and artistic programming. We asked Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer director of the DAM, what exactly this merger means for Denver’s art lovers.

Joint Membership

As of June 1, all Kirkland members will be granted DAM member privileges. The process of getting DAM members admission to the Kirkland will take a little longer logistically, according to Heinrich, who notes that the DAM boasts nearly 30,000 members. “We’ll probably phase in membership throughout the summer,” Heinrich says.

Expanded Hours

Currently, the DAM is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except for Tuesdays, when it’s open from 10 a.m. to 8 pm). The Kirkland, which previously had a smaller staff, is only open four days a week: Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. According to Heinrich, the Kirkland’s hours will eventually align with the DAM’s. But don’t immediately flock to the Kirkland on Monday; the team expects the hours expansion to take a while.

No Age Restrictions

The Kirkland has carefully curated a living-room vibe, meaning fragile pieces like a 1901 glass goblet from Koloman Moser and the iconic lips-shaped sofa from Studio65 and Gufram are arranged not behind glass, but as though you’re inside someone’s home. Because of this, children under 13 are currently not allowed inside (something about a bull in a China shop). “That’s not in sync with the Denver Art Museum’s mission and our core values,” Heinrich says. “We’re going to have to think about ways to make it accessible to kids of all ages.” While that might mean putting pieces behind protective barriers, Heinrich hopes to preserve the Kirkland’s salon-style setting.

Spanish Translations

The wall text and art labels at the DAM are currently printed both in English and Spanish, something Heinrich hopes to bring to the Kirkland. “It’ll take some time, just because of how long it takes to translate languages and finding the right format, but we plan on starting it really soon,” he says.

More Design-Focused Exhibits

“With [Kirkland’s] design collection, suddenly the Denver Art Museum is one of the largest collections of design in the country,” Heinrich says of the now 50,000-plus pieces in their joint catalog. “This is a huge collection of decorative art and design, which I think is only second to the Museum of Modern Art in the country.” That means visitors can expect more design-focused exhibits on display at both institutions in the future.

Additional Staff

The Kirkland merger comes with an endowment, Heinrich says. A placeholder in that endowment calls for a new curator of decorative art, which means DAM leadership will start looking to hire someone with a focus in glass, ceramics, and textiles within the next 18 months. Heinrich also foresees adding more employees across departments. “Hopefully,” he says, “we can hire talented people who are inspired by this new situation.”

Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and 5280.com.