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Aspen Art Museum's New Director Is An Art World Visionary

Meredith Diers | December 3, 2020 | Lifestyle

Aspen Art Museum, a vibrant space for contemporary art, welcomes a new director who's dymanic vision is already being felt in the community.


Starting a new, high-profile job at the beginning of March 2020 could have been a disaster, and yet the new director of the Aspen Art Museum, Nicola Lees, used the museum's spring and early summer closure to her advantage.

Lees took the pandemic hiatus of nearly three months to rework exhibit timelines, come up with safety precautions and reimagine how the museum can display exhibitions and cater to one-time and repeat visitors.

With more than 15 years of experience in the contemporary art world, Lees says it was a "natural progression to the Aspen Art Museum" after five years at Serpentine Galleries in London, which prides itself on its deep connection to the local community, free admission and exhibitons focused on climate change, education and equality.

Read also: The Aspen Art Museum Proves To Be A Cultural Force On The East End

She was inspired to make the leap to Aspen because of the long legacy of artists retreating to the mountains—Aspen, Verbier, Engadin—to think differently and see art from outside the traditional art epicenters. And Lees envisions the museum as a living, breathing space, one in which she hopes to "bring more [artist] residencies and artist projects" as well as continue to surprise visitors. Lees also sees the museum as a pilalar of the Aspen community and hopes to collaborate with local nonprofits, businesses and individuals to create a more interdisciplinary approach to art across Aspen.

One of the first projects Lees has already begun is Jonathan Berger's recreation of the museum shop. Berger is modeling his shop after New York City's Little Rickie's, and it will be "a cabinet of curiosities with affordable to expensive one-of-a-kind items," as described by Lees, who sees this endeavor as an evolving, active and social art experiment.

An exhibit by Barbara Kasten debuted this fall. Her work is an ode to the legacy of Herbert Bayer, who has greatly influenced much of the architecture and art in Aspen. The installations include three video-sculpture pieces—all exploring three-dimesnional space—as well as two free-standing sculptures made of colored acrylic pieces that further the discussion of space and geometry.

The museum's latest fundraising exhibit, Winterfest, includes a curated selection of work by a diverse group of artists displayed in the museum within a site-specific architectural space designed by the U.S.-based German artist Veit Laurent Kurz. Kurz's installations are interpretations of the traditional alpine cabin structure—making it a perfect fit within the Aspen environment.

The museum is currently open to visitors and continues to follow city safety guidelines to keep its patrons safe and healthy. With more exciting and innovative contemporary exhibitions slated for 2021, there has never been a more exciting time to visit this groundbreaking space.

Photography by: Mike Moran/courtesy of Aspen Art Museum