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Still Chill: Colossal Colosi Documents Denver’s “Betrayal of Trust”

Thumbnail image for Still1.jpg
Seeing Red: Clyfford Still, “1949-A-No.1,” 93 by 79 in., the highest-estimated work ($25-35 million) of the four being auctioned by Denver to fund Clyfford Still Museum’s endowment

In his rigorously argued, detailed essay, Fighting Still; Still Fighting, David Colosi, an
interdisciplinary artist with a background in literary theory, has picked up my reporting and commentary on the upcoming auction of four works by the City of Denver and moved the ball down the field.

After analyzing the documentation provided in my posts related to the violation of donor intent regarding the gift of Clyfford Still‘s oeuvre to the City of Denver for its new Clyfford Still Museum and citing examples of Clyfford Still’s fierce insistence on tight control over his work, Colosi cites another crucial bit of evidence (which I had missed) on this deal gone wrong—the press release (posted on the Still Museum’s website [scroll down]) that was issued in August 2004 by Denver’s then Mayor John Hickenlooper.

That official announcement of the Still estate’s bequest to Denver lists these conditions from the agreement for the transfer of the artworks:

—The City must maintain, exhibit and handle the Collection in accordance requirements of the Will and Agreement [which include the explicit no-sale stipulations from both Clyfford’s and Patricia’s wills].

—The City must raise or otherwise designate funding sufficient to procure the museum and provide for a maintenance and operation endowment.

Having failed in its obligation to raise an endowment, the city plans to monetize four works that were intended for the museum, for an estimated $51-71.5 million.

Posted on the website for the Center for Three-Dimensional Literature, Colosi’s article blasts the upcoming sale at Solheby’s as “no less than a breach of trust on an agreement (both personal and legal) made between…Hickenlooper and Patricia Still….This gift would not have been awarded to the City of Denver if Patricia Still had known that the museum would sell works of art as a bail-out to establish an endowment. All of her legal literature spells this out with heart-stopping clarity.”

Colosi’s essay concludes with a shoutout to CultureGrrl, “whose research and journalism about this subject inspired me to write this article.”

Same back at you, David. Your article should be required reading for the Denver City officials who are on the brink of misusing four works that were entrusted to their care.

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