Fifteen best Denver ART moments in 2011

3. Phil Bender receives a 2011 Mayor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, November 3

Phil Bender is generally accepted as the grand old man of the Denver co-op scene and the dogged soul who's kept the home fire burning at Pirate: Contemporary Art for more than thirty years. In those ensuing years after Pirate's inception, Bender has seen his gridded found-object works exhibited in higher places, including the Denver Art Museum, but he's still just Phil, and we're all the better for it. See Pirate's 32nd Anniversary Show through January 1. Phil says he's going to be there that Sunday, the actual, true anniversary date: "I'll drink champagne by myself if it comes to that," he notes. On second thought, why don't you join him?

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2. Christo's Over the River approved by the Bureau of Land Management, November 7

Renowned international installation artist Christo's had Over the River on the back-burner for more than a decade, but the day the BLM okay went down marked the first time he could truly hope to see it completed. Only a couple minor approvals remain on the docket, and then plans to cover the Arkansas River with fluttering canopies can begin in earnest, with a completion date set for the summer of 2014. Long may Christo's freak flag fly!

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1.Clyfford Still Museum opens to the public, November 18

The late abstract expressionist painter Clyfford Still's dream-come-true -- a dedicated, world-class museum housing the bulk of his work -- has become Denver's crowning glory in the art world at large, and it's true: The whole world was watching when the elegant, naturally-lit, bare-bones space designed by Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture opened for business with a smart exhibit charting Still's development as a painter. The museum has garnered write-ups by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other national forums, but, you know, the truth is that it's all ours. The Clyfford Still Museum is now ours to enjoy, and his large-scale paintings and their hard-edged inner worlds of color-within-color must be seen to be believed. But, still: Let the visiting throngs commence.

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