The Clyfford Still Museum. Photo by Raul J. Garcia. Image Courtesy Clyfford Still Museum.

DENVER – On my way to Aspen ArtCrush, the aptly named three-day benefit to raise funds for the Aspen Art Museum (of which Sotheby’s plays a big part in this support), I decided to make my first visit to the mile high city of Denver to take in the lively and burgeoning cultural and dining scene there. With a new museum on the horizon, being designed by Japanese architect Shigiru Ban, I realized that Colorado had become a destination for some great “starchitecture.”

I started with the newly opened Clyfford Still Museum. Designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works, it was built to accommodate the Still estate, including approximately 2500 works – or 94 percent of the artist’s lifetime output. It is spectacular, and really makes the case for single artist museums. The first floor is devoted to a study center, art storage and orientation, consisting of archives, sketchbooks, photographs, and videos. By the time you climb to the second floor to experience nine perfectly proportioned galleries, you are immersed in the power of this great AbEx artist’s finest works – a deeply emotional experience, but also incredibly educational to see the trajectory of his artistic vision laid out in a chronological fashion.

Installation view of the inaugural exhibition. The experience of the collection  is enlivened by natural light that enters the galleries through a series of skylights over a cast-in-place, perforated concrete ceiling. Images courtesy Allied Works Architecture. Photography by Jeremy Bittermann.

The Denver Art Museum, literally right next store, is also renowned for its architecture. In 1971 Italian architect Gio Ponti completed the North Building, and this is the only extant work of this master in the US. Continuing this legacy, Daniel Libeskind designed a new wing, which opened in 2006. It is radical in form, which recalls the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and is covered in titanium panels to reflect the Colorado sunshine. It reminded me of Gehry’s Bilbao Museum with its shiny surface, and of the Guggenheim in its curved and canted walls – creating an effect of disequilibrium as I toured the galleries. And lastly, I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, a kunsthalle that is British architect David Adjaye’s first museum commission – as innovative as a building as the program housed within.

Denver Art Museum Expansion/Construction, Denver Colorado, Studio Daniel Libeskind/Architect.

After polling everyone I could think of including two Denver residents, two concierges, and a cab driver, we decided to dine at The Kitchen, a newly opened branch of a farm to table restaurant from Boulder. I started with a burrata cheese-topped crostini with fresh peaches. I spent the entire week gorging on Colorado Palisade’s peaches, and may have to go to the peach festival next year if I can figure out where Palisade is. We shared a Colorado lamb burger, and a Wisdom Natural Poultry chicken with harrissa, couscous and almond salad, and a cooling cumin yogurt.

I can’t believe I woke up hungry the next day, but before departing on a scenic ride to Aspen over Independence Pass, we fueled up at Sam’s # 3 – a hugely popular diner that has ridiculously low prices for enormous plates of food. You can eat to your heart’s content choosing from Greek, American, of Mexican inspired eggs, burritos, and scrambles. I had a Greek omelet with a twist – in addition to tomatoes, spinach and feta cheese it had gyro meat in it as well. I couldn’t say no to the free side dish, so I tried biscuits and gravy, a popular Southern dish that was a peppery mound of white sauce, made with pork drippings, and covered three enormous biscuits, avalanche style.

Fully sated, and disappointed that I wouldn’t be hungry when we reached the historic former silver mining town of Leadville about three hours out, we were on our way to Aspen, for the first event, a wine tasting at the home of John and Amy Phelan.