Photo - Jonathan Ross
Aspen has a unique history as a destination mountain town for the uber-rich, as well as hippies and ski bums. The epic scenery, world-class institutions and festivals (such as The Aspen Ideas Festival, Aspen Food & Wine, and The Aspen Music Festival) — not to mention the incredibly expensive real estate (in 2021 the medium home price in Aspen was $2.1 million) — coalesce in a veritable playground and alpine hideaway for the very rich. But, it wasn’t always this way. Aspen also has a dark side — this was, after all, the town that let serial killer Ted Bundy escape through a courtroom window back in the 1970s. Before the streets of Aspen filled up with couture retail — Prada, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, etc. — Aspen was a mining town that attracted a plethora of characters looking to make a quick fortune. In 1946 the Aspen Skiing Company was established, although the town didn’t grow into a resort hamlet until the 1960s. By the 1980s, Aspen was attracting all kinds of eccentrics, including Hollywood drop-outs. Andy Warhol used to make regular trips to Aspen, documenting the personalities and wildlife in striking black & white photos that recall a seemingly simpler time. He fell in love with the spirit of Aspen, the beautiful people, and the town’s underlying weirdness. Today, Aspen is one of the most rarefied resort towns in the world, catering to an international, jet-set crowd‚ literally — every summer and winter, the tiny Aspen airport is a parking lot for private jets. Some of the world’s most influential art collectors and dealers call Aspen their home-away-from-home, resulting in a vibrant, world-class arts scene. The mix of nature and culture make Aspen the sought-after destination it has become, and a perfect place for art lovers seeking an inspirational getaway.
is a non-collecting museum, which means it functions more like a European Kunsthalle than a typical American museum. In the last decade, the AAM has undergone massive changes. In 2014, the museum upgraded from it’s Roaring Fork River-side digs to a beautiful new 33,000 sq.ft. building in the middle of town, designed by Pritzer-prize winning architect Shigeru Ban and created with sustainable materials. In 2017, the AAM facility was recognized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as among the year’s winners for “best contemporary architecture.”
In 2019, Nicola Lees, formerly the director of New York University’s contemporary art space 80 Washington Square East Gallery (80WSE) and, prior to that, the curator of Frieze Projects, was appointed Director of the AAM. One of the youngest museum directors in the country, Lees has shaken up the Aspen art scene with her fresh curatorial vision and an ethos that promotes inclusivity, especially among the local art community. The museum, with its elegant roof deck, cafe, and breathtaking views of Aspen Mountain is a popular venue for a range of events, from film screenings to concerts, artists talks, and performances. With a constantly rotating series of exhibitions taking place across the museum’s four floors, there’s always a reason to visit the AAM. Furthermore, admission to the AAM is completely free, thanks to the generosity of AAM board members Amy and John Phelan.
Installation view: Cerith Wyn Evans: Aspen Drift, Aspen Art Museum, 2021. Photo: Carter Seddon
Red Brick Center for the Arts is dedicated to supporting local Roaring Fork Valley artists. In 1991, the Aspen Snowmass Council for the Arts petitioned the City of Aspen to purchase a former red brick schoolhouse. According to the organization’s website, “By a slim margin of votes, citizens of Aspen in the August of 1992 election, agreed for the City to purchase the building with the stated intent of providing a long-term home for the arts, nonprofit organizations and other community uses.”
Now that Aspen real estate prices are, on average, in the seven figures, the Snowmass Council for the Arts’ move to establish a truly local organization — to support truly local creatives — was clearly prescient. Red Brick's art gallery hosts rotating exhibitions throughout the year intended to promote art as “an essential experience for creating dialogue, learning, and growth,” with a special focus on Colorado-based artists, especially artists from the Roaring Fork Valley. In addition to its exhibition program, the Center also offers a range of art classes and workshops for adults and children.
When viewed from the street, Baldwin Gallery appears quite small in scale, but don’t be fooled. The gallery has a cavernous lower level, with multiple exhibition rooms. With its deep ties to the local community, museum-quality exhibitions, and international reach, Baldwin Gallery is a mustsee for any art lover visiting Aspen.
Photo - Robert Millman
For collectors: Edwards also runs The Caribou Club, a clandestine member’s only club that caters to an elite social set (also founded by the late Harley Baldwin). Art collectors lucky enough to be invited to a Baldwin Gallery vernissage dinner are treated to drinks, dinner and dancing in the Caribou Club’s intimate interior, designed in the style of an aristocratic hunting lodge with seductive “Twin Peaks” vibes.
Specializing in secondary market work by modern and contemporary masters, Casterline|Goodman is the go-to gallery for historical blue-chip art.
Run by two dapper art dealers, Robert Casterline and Jordan Goodman, Casterline|Goodman excels at sourcing high-value investment art for their discerning clientele. The gallery's exhibited artists list reads like a textbook glossary, and includes legendary names such as Christo, Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bourgeois and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Casterline Goodman also represents a stable of up-and-coming contemporary artists, such as Marcus Jansen, a painter and U.S. army veteran whose compositions are heavily influenced by his time in the armed forces. Jansen’s surrealist depictions of stylized wartime archetypes, laden with graffiti-esque markings, have garnered critical acclaim for the artist — who got his start selling paintings on the sidewalks in Manhattan and is now in esteemed museum collections worldwide. Simply stated, his star is on the rise.
Casterline|Goodman also has galleries in Chicago and Naples, Florida, and participates in art fairs, such as Art Miami.
Previously known as Gonzo Gallery, Fat City Gallery has a completely niche platform, specializing in the political prints, posters, and works on paper by graphic designer Thomas Benton and illustrator Ralph Steadman — both known for their affiliation with the original “Gonzo” journalist, Hunter S. Thompson.
Work by Thomas Benton
In the 1970s, Hunter S. Thompson ran for Aspen Sheriff, on what he dubbed the “Freak Power” campaign. He lost, but the plethora of campaign posters and memorabilia that supported his candidacy have become sought-after historical ephemera — in fine art form.
Founded by Daniel Joseph Watkins, a Gonzo evangelist, Fat City Gallery currently occupies a space in the historic Stein Eriksen building. Watkins is also the co-director of “Freak Power: The Ballot or the Bomb” (2020), and the author of the books: “Freak Power: Hunter S. Thompson’s Campaign for Sheriff,” and “Thomas W. Benson: Artist|Activist.” He's a Gonzo scholar, as fast-talking & charistmatic as Hunter S. Thompson himself.
The gallery’s name is actually also a reference to Hunter S. Thompson’s sheriff campaign —it’s what he wanted to rename Aspen, in order to keep developers out of the quickly-evolving mountain town. And while Thompson may have lost the election, he did inspire an entire generation that would ultimately attain the “Freak Power” he proselytized. Bob Braudis, one of Thompson’s proteges, would go on to not only be elected to Sheriff of Aspen and Pitkin County, but to hold that position for 27 years.
Fat City Gallery revels in the ethos of Aspen’s unique counter-cultural history — full of hippies, freaks, celebrities, and iconoclasts — and is an important venue for the preservation of Aspen’s Gonzo legacy. The gallery is technically a pop-up and plans to relocate again in October 2021, so check the website to stay up-to-date on their next iteration. It’s sure to be wild.
Harvey Preston Gallery is a long-standing Aspen gallery that specializes in contemporary ceramic art, works on paper, and sculpture. Founded by noted ceramicist Sam Harvey in 2005, Harvey Preston Gallery mounts elegant and challenging exhibitions curated through an artistic lens.
The work exhibited at Harvey Preston Gallery runs the gamut from functional design to highly conceptual, site-specific installations. Local artists are juxtaposed with national talents, bringing the Roaring Fork Valley’s artistic community into close dialogue with varied perspectives from around the country.
"Surfaces, Holes, Shadows: New Work by Del Harrow and Selected Drawings from a Distinguished New York Collection,"
Represented artists include Anne Currier, whose work is in the permanent collection of institutions including: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; and the Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia — as well as renowned local and regional artists, such as Pamela Joseph and Del Harrow.
A New York City gallery renowned for championing the careers of many contemporary superstar artists — before they were famous — Marianne Boesky Gallery set up shop in Aspen in 2017 in a stand-alone building on the edge of town. The building was once the cabin/ studio of an infamous Aspenite, a horse dealer known as “Horsethief Kelly,” and was redesigned by art world “starchitect” Annabelle Selldorf. One of the first blue-chip galleries to establish a satellite gallery in Aspen, Boesky was also one of the first galleries to migrate to Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood, back when it was mostly auto garages.
Photo - Tony Prikryl
The daughter of legendary banker Ivan Boesky, who inspired Gordon Gekko’s character in the movie "Wall Street," Marianne has long been considered a trailblazing gallerist and high society tastemaker. She essentially discovered “super-flat” pioneer Takashi Murakami and was an early proponent of Lisa Yuskavage, Yoshitomo Nara, and Sarah Sze, who represented the United States at the 2013 Venice Biennale.
Antone Könst at Marianne Boesky Gallery
Today, Marianne Boesksy Gallery works with a prestigious roster of contemporary artists, including Ghada Amer, known for her feminist and erotic sewn canvas works, the Haas Brothers, a design duo beloved for their whimiscal and bizarre functional objects, and experimental film-maker Sue de Beer.
Founded in 1997 by Albert Sanford, this gallery specializes in prints and works on paper by established artists, from the 19th century to present day. Galerie Maximillian is a member of The International Fine Print Dealers’ Association (IFPDA), and is the gallery to visit for multiples and museum-quality works on paper by legendary artists, such as Mary Cassat, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Ellsworth Kelly, and Richard Serra, just to name a few.
The gallery has one other speciality — the YBAs (Young British Artists) — an influential group of artists, many of whom met while studying at Goldsmiths College in London in the late 1980s, and which includes current artist A-listers like Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin. As one of the longest-running galleries in Aspen, Galerie Maximillian has earned a solid reputation as a leader in the niche field of fine art prints and multiples.
Located in a charming brick building on a well-trafficked corner of town, just down the street from the gondola, Skye Gallery is a young gallery with deep Aspen roots. Born and raised in Aspen, gallery owner and artist Skye Weinglass founded Skye Gallery in 2016. The program specializes in emerging contemporary art with a holistic and playful aesthetic.
In addition to local talents such as established artist James Surls, emerging sculptor Ajax Axe, and mixed media artist Jody Guralnick — whose paintings of organic networks, such as lichen, algae and fungi, have been exhibited at the Denver Botanical Gardens — Skye Gallery also works with rising stars like Dan Lam, internationally-known for her technicolor “blob” sculptures (pictured bolow).
The Skye Gallery team with owner and artist Skye Weinglass pictured far right.
With her strong community connections and family history of entrepreneurship — her father “Boogie” Weinglass was the inspiration for the iconic movie Diner and is a veritable local celebrity for his philanthropic endeavors — Skye brings a uniquely authentic perspective and a refreshing, youthful enthusiasm to the Aspen art scene.
When the 1% began fleeing cities at the onset of the pandemic, many seasonal Aspenites became full-time mountain dwellers. Their migration triggered a gallery influx, with a slew of world-class, blue chip galleries setting up shop in Aspen for indeterminate periods of time.
Some of these galleries will likely leave town when the pandemic fully subsides and their collectors return to their primary residences. Until then, however, Aspen is enjoying a kind of art renaissance, the likes of which the town has never seen before.
French gallerist Almine Rech founded her gallery in Paris in 1997. That same year, she married the grandson of Pablo Picasso, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, who has established multiple museums and foundations dedicated to his legendary ancestor. Together, they are an art world power couple. Almine Rech now has galleries in Paris, Brussels, London, New York, Shanghai and, as of 2021, Aspen.
Almine Rech's gallery space in Aspen, in the same building as Lehmann Maupin & Carpenters Workshop Gallery
Working with a roster of major artists, such as Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, George Condo and James Turrell, as well as newly-annointed stars like Brent Wadden, Chloe Wise and Brian Calvin, Almine Rech is an undeniable tour de force in the art market and part of the exclusive club known as the “mega-galleries” (other mega-galleries include Gagosian, Pace, and Hauser & Wirth).
Located immediately adjacent to the Aspen Art Museum, Almine Rech’s Aspen “project space” opened with a show by celebrated painter Nathaniel Mary Quinn, and will also feature artists Genesis Tramaine and Wes Lang before the summer “high season” ends in mid-September. According to an interview with ARTnews, “The project space plans to operate into September, with the potential to become a permanent location thereafter.”
Established in Los Angeles in 2006, Honor Fraser Gallery shows strong conceptual art by modern, post-war and pop-art masters, as well as contemporary “mediums using process-driven, research-based, and object-focused strategies,” according to its Art Basel gallery bio.
Among the first white cube galleries to represent the now-iconic artist KAWS — one of the established art market’s breakout stars in recent years — Honor Fraser is known for mounting cutting-edge exhibitions.
Her current artist roster includes legendary names like Andy Warhol, Josef Albers, Claes Oldenburg and Tom Wesselman, as well as more contemporary talents including painters Kenny Scharf and Rosson Crow, and sculptor Ry Rocklen. Honor Fraser opened her eponymous Aspen outpost in 2021.
Lehmann Maupin mounted their first Aspen pop-up in the summer of 2020, in the form of a private exhibition space, open only by appointment. That foray was so successful — they’re back in 2021 and, this time, have teamed up with noted functional design gallery Carpenters Workshop, which has permanent spaces in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris and is also hosting another summer pop-up in the Hamptons (in collaboration with Christie’s).
The powerful combination of cutting edge design-meets-contemporary art — for which Lehmann Maupin is internationally known — makes theirs one of the more enticing sojourns to pop up in Aspen this summer.
Lehmann Maupin’s artist roster includes established international artists like Teresita Fernández, Erwin Wurm, and Do Ho Suh. Carpenters Workshop Gallery represents well known creatives working interdisciplinarily and features functional art such as lamps by the new media art studio DRIFT and chic benches by the iconic fashion designer Rick Owens.
A London-based, blue-chip gallery, White Cube also has a space in Hong Kong, and “viewing rooms” in New York and Paris. The gallery was founded in 1993 by Jay Jopling, who met Damien Hirst early in the artist’s career and began representing him and other YBAs, such as Jake and Dinos Chapman, and Gary Hume. White Cube is among the world’s most respected galleries, and their exhibitions are always museum-caliber.
Today the gallery represents a diverse roster of modern, contemporary and “next generation” art stars, with notable names such as American conceptualist Bruce Nauman, the Chicago-based polymath Theaster Gates, German artist Anselm Kiefer ,and Etel Adnan, the 96 year-old Arab-American poet and artist whose recent exhibitions include solo shows at SFMoMA, Mass MoCA, and the Aspen Art Museum.
The Out-of Towners
Aspen is but one jewel in the crown of the Roaring Fork Valley. Spend a day “down valley” and discover the breadth of what Aspen’s neighbors have to offer. From lively farmer’s markets, to scenic artist residencies, hidden hot springs and magnificent scenery, there’s plenty of reasons to take a day trip, even if you’re only in Aspen for a long weekend. Here are three stops every art lover should make when visiting the Roaring Fork Valley.
About 20 minutes outside of Aspen proper is Snowmass, a beautiful resort town that also boasts one of the country’s most renowned artist residencies. Anderson Ranch was founded in 1966 by a group of like-minded artists — among them noted ceramist Paul Soldner, photographer Cherie Hiser, clay sculptor Peter Voulkos, and woodworker Sam Maloof — who all saw a need for arts-based education that would provide access to tools and supportive, engaging community, beyond what was traditionally available in academia.
Anderson Ranch is nestled against Snowmass mountain and consists of an eclectic arrangement of studios, lecture halls, exhibition spaces, workshops and an on-site cafe. The Ranch runs a prestigious artist-in-residence program in the fall and spring, during which time 28 artists are able to develop their practice in media including: ceramics, new media, photography, furniture design, woodworking, painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture.
The Ranch also hosts visiting artists, critics and esteemed curators for intimate talks, panels and lectures. Ongoing workshops are available for a vast range of mediums — from Native American beading to 3D printing — and are tailored to various skill levels and ages. Stop by the Ranch and browse the shop, which features all kinds of artwork made on site and available for purchase, enjoy a lecture or visit an artist’s studio. A multicultural incubator for the world’s most promising artists, there’s always something to discover at the Ranch.
About 30 minutes down-valley from Aspen is the picturesque town of Basalt. With a mainstreet reminiscent of an old-timey western film set and a wonderful weekly farmer’s market, Basalt offers a more down-toearth atmosphere than Aspen — and a true glimpse of small-town life in the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley.
The Art Base is Basalt’s beloved arts center. Originally founded in 1966 as the Wyly Art Center, just up the road in Woody Creek, the organization relocated to historic “old town” Basalt in 2005, and changed its name to the Art Base in 2015. With local support, the organization was able to purchase a historic venue in 2020 — where it welcomes approximately 10,000 visitors per year.
Basalt is far more diverse than its swanky neighbor up-valley. In fact, 70% of Basalt High School students self-identify as non-white. To engage, support and inspire this population, the Art Base hosts exhibitions that feature a range of local artists, from students to established Coloradians, with a focus on artists living in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The Art Base also offers educational programs “designed to be accessible to everyone and encourage creative expression and lifelong learning through all-ages visual arts workshops and outreach programs in partnership with local nonprofits and Basalt schools.”
The Powers Art Center is a true hidden gem. Located off of Highway 82 just outside of Carbondale, the seemingly-modest building offers a spectacular view of Mount Sopris, mirrored in an elegant reflecting pool.
The Powers Art Center was founded in 2014 by John and Kimiko Powers, legendary collectors and contemporary art patrons, who established the center to showcase — above all else — their monumental collection of works on paper by celebrated American artist Jasper Johns. Admission to the Powers Art Center is free of charge, in honor of the founders’ desire to provide the broadest possible access to their world-class collection.
Jasper Johns is the primary artist featured at the Powers Art Center, however the space also hosts rotating exhibits of works by equally-lauded post-war and contemporary artists. Portraits of the couple by Andy Warhol are juxtaposed with minimalist Japanese ceramics by Takashi Nakazato, a 13th generation artist working in traditional Karatsu ceramics.
Art Lovers' Guide to Aspen
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Editorial and design: Emilie Trice
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Original artwork: Paige Simianer