Anonymous Gift to Establish and Endow Institute of Textile Art & Fashion at the Denver Art Museum
Transformational $25 Million gift will support Textile Art and Fashion acquisitions, conservation, staffing and programming for the future
The Denver Art Museum (DAM) today announced a $25 million endowment gift from an anonymous donor. This gift will support programming, art acquisitions and outreach of its Textile Art and Fashion department, creating a new Institute of Textile Art and Fashion. Florence Müller, the museum’s Avenir Curator of Textile Art and Fashion, will lead the Institute of Textile Art and Fashion, established by this transformational gift.
“The museum is deeply grateful for this significant and powerful endowment gift,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “The goals of the new Institute are to support the development and sharing of the museum’s Textile Art and Fashion collection and create a basis for scholarly research and exchange in ways that are engaging and valuable for our community. Textiles have been wonderful ambassadors and connectors between diverse cultures for thousands of years. They were used to communicate ideas and stories, share religious beliefs as well as notions of style and taste. Then, as now, they are among the most beautiful documents of human creativity.”
More specifically, $15 million of this gift will provide an endowment to support the ongoing departmental programming and scholarship, and the remaining $10 million will support an endowment fund for new acquisitions to the Textile Art and Fashion collection. Ongoing work will include the restoration and care of all works in the collection, as well as the programming of the galleries on the 6th floor of the soon-to-open Lanny and Sharon Martin Building. Dynamic exhibitions, learning and engagement programs and opportunities, ongoing lecture series and Textile Art and Fashion Symposia will also be funded through this new departmental endowment.
The museum’s collections of textile art and fashion encompasses more than 5,000 objects from Asia, Europe, and North and South America, ranging from archaeological textiles to contemporary works of art in fiber, as well as fashion from the 18th century to today.
The origins of the department of Textile Art and Fashion date back to 1927, with the gift of a Saltillo serape and a Kashmir shawl to the museum. Over the ensuing decades, the diversity of the collection developed dramatically under the tenure of several curators, alternately specializing in textiles and fashion, starting with the appointment of the first curator, Lydia Roberts Dunham in 1955. Imelda Gatton DeGraw was the curator from 1965 to 1992, followed by Alice Zrebiec until 2014.
In 2012, the Avenir Foundation endowed the department, which allowed for the remodeling of the sixth-floor Textile Art and Fashion gallery. Completed in 2013, the renovation includes the recently named Avenir PreVIEW textile conservation lab and the interactive Nancy Lake Benson Thread Studio. In 2015, Florence Müller became the curator and under her leadership, the museum has successfully grown the fashion collection through international and local acquisitions.
Exhibitions from the department have generated excitement and engagement, including Dior: From Paris to the World (2019), Shockwave: Japanese Fashion Design 1980s-90s (2017) and Paris to Hollywood: The Fashion and Influence of Veronique and Gregory Peck (2021).
“Fashion and textiles are exciting to me and our audiences because they are so accessible – everyone has fashion and textiles in their home and everyday lives,” said Müller. “This gift will enable us to build upon the museum’s great collections and tell more stories with them.”