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Denver's Art Museum: A Mile High and Twice as Big

Sunday, September 17, 2006

WHAT: The Denver Art Museum's new Frederic C. Hamilton Building and its additional exhibition space

WHEN: Opening Oct. 7

HOW MUCH: $13

WHY GO: One of the largest art museums between Chicago and the West Coast is about to get a whole lot bigger. On Oct. 7, the Denver Art Museum will double in size with the opening of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building. The 146,000-square-foot structure will help accommodate the museum's permanent collection and provides three spaces for traveling exhibitions.

The Hamilton Building, named after the Denver businessman who chairs the museum's board of trustees, was designed by famed architect Daniel Libeskind, who drew up the original master plan for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site.

The $90.5 million building consists of geometric, titanium-clad angles that resemble the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. A 120-foot-high atrium features sloping walls, a skylight and a grand staircase that provide easy access to the building's galleries. An additional two-story atrium houses the modern and contemporary galleries, which include an outdoor sculpture garden providing views of the Denver skyline.

DON'T MISS . . . the Japanese art collection of Kimiko and John Powers, featuring approximately 120 works, in the new Gallagher Family Gallery on the building's first floor. The exhibition -- which includes folding screens, hanging and hand scrolls, sculpture and lacquer ware -- spans seven centuries with works by Zen priests and artists using Western techniques.

The second-floor Anschutz Gallery houses "Radar: Selections From the Logan Collection," including works from artists Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Franz Ackermann and Katharina Fritsch. Included in the exhibition are two provocative works: Damien Hirst's "Philip (The Twelve Disciples)," which is a skinned bull's head suspended in formaldehyde; and Kiki Smith's "Virgin Mary," a wax statue covered in blue-black, wax-dipped, silk flowers, tassels and feathers.

The Martin & McCormick Gallery, also on the second floor, will exhibit Pueblo ceramics, Navajo and Hopi textiles and other contemporary Native American art .

EXTRAS: The museum's grand opening weekend, cleverly titled Hot DAM (DAM is for Denver Art Museum), starts Oct. 7 at 10 a.m. Admission is free for the 35-hour event, which will include live entertainment, tours and family programming. Timed tickets will be available on site only beginning Oct. 7 at 9 a.m.

Denver hosts an international wine festival on Nov. 2 and 4 at the Mile High Station (2027 W. Lower Colfax Ave., 303-664-5700). The first event will be a food and wine pairing competition; the second will feature entries from 16 countries and 70 wineries with about 300 different bottles of wine being offered. Tickets range from $75 to $120.

EATS: Palette's, the museum restaurant, received its own $1 million touch-up and is also reopening Oct. 7. The eatery will offer several $9 appetizers, including crispy fried calamari and smoked sweet corn soup with guacamole and barbecued shrimp. Main dishes will range from a $9 "BLAT" (a bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato sandwich) to a $14 pork schnitzel.

Zengo (1610 Little Raven St., 720-904-0965), in the city's trendy Riverfront Park neighborhood, features Asian-Latin fusion. Zengo is Japanese for "give and take" -- which means lots of sharing with your dinner compadres over such dishes as won-ton tacos, steamed gyoza dumplings and Thai shrimp lettuce wrap. Small plates are about $10 each; you'll pay about double that for full-size entrees.

It has only six tables (talk about intimate), but there's a lot of buzz about the year-old French restaurant Z Cuisine (2239 W. 30th Ave., 303-477-1111). Critics are raving over classic French dishes like the Cassoulet Maison ($21).

SLEEPS: The century-old Oxford Hotel (1600 17th St., 303-628-5400, http://www.theoxfordhotel.com/ ) has 80 guest rooms packed with European antiques; rooms start at $159 per night double. On the other side of the spectrum is the modern Jet Hotel (1612 Wazee St., 303-572-3300, http://www.thejethotel.com/ ), with 19 rooms, each one hipper than the next. And how's this for cool: Jet's Web site describes the hotel bar as "an urban nightclub meets '30s-era speakeasy in a postmodern setting." Rooms start at about $169.

INFO: The Denver Art Museum is at 100 W. 14th Pkwy., 720-865-5000, http://www.denverartmuseum.org/ .

-- John Maynard

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