April 10, 2015
Ray Mark Rinaldi
No one is sure why northern New Mexico inspires artists the way it has for so long. Century after century, movement by movement, from early native cultures to culturally inquisitive 20th-century newcomers, the region has proved productive to ground-breaking work.
An industry lives off the legacy today, a tourist-friendly mix of museums and commercial galleries centered in Santa Fe that keep both the past and present alive. Visitors enjoy it in equal measure, wandering through hallowed halls and sleek art shops with the same open-mindedness.
It's the Santa Fe way, and it shifts as new places open and old ones transform themselves trying to keep up with the times.
In that spirit, here's a list of the city's best places to see art now. It's a combo of old favorites that seem to have renewed themselves and fresh faces that are challenging the status quo.
Consider it Santa Fe's top 12 for 2015.
Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts
Pablita Velarde may not be as well known as other painters of the 20th century, but within the American Indian art community, she is a superstar. The first Indian woman to have a full-time career as an artist, she broke stereotypes and portrayed the landscape for more than seven decades. This intimate museum, which opened in 2013, pays tribute to her life with a deep display of her traditionally influenced, but politically aware, paintings.
213 Cathedral Place, Santa Fe, 505-988-8900,r pvmiwa.org.
William Siegal Gallery
The William Siegal Gallery pulls off the impossible on a daily basis. It specializes in two areas that have little to do with one another — pre-Columbian objects and contemporary art made since 1971 — and somehow makes the interwoven display of the genres look seamless. The gallery is like a museum, only better because the atmosphere is relaxed and you can take things home — for a price.
540 S. Guadalupe St., Santa Fe; 505-820-3300, williamsiegal.com.
Site Santa Fe
Santa Fe is a small town, really, but its contemporary art museum is a mighty force in the country's cultural scene. Site Santa Fe presents cutting-edge work from an international lineup of artists and commissions its own interesting projects inside and out of its stripped-down building in the Railyard District. This year, the museum is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a series of greatest-hits exhibits that invite featured artists to show their work once again.
1606 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe; 505-989-1199, sitesantafe.org.
A Santa Fe stalwart for four decades, the Gerald Peters Gallery injected new life into itself and the entire city when it opened its new Peters Project space last summer. Standing side-by-side, just to the south of the Canyon Road commercial strip, the two spaces now offer a tour of all that's good about the city, with wares that range from New Mexico naturalism to cutting edge, blue-chip contemporary stars.
1011 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, 505-954-5800, petersprojects.com.
Axle Contemporary is a roving gallery on wheels, lodged snugly in the back of a 1970 aluminum stepvan with a conspicuous pop- top. Parked on various streets throughout the city, it looks casual from the outside. Inside, it's a quite serious endeavor, exhibiting curated shows by artists from across the region.You can find its exact location each day by looking on the website.
Roving locations, axleart.com.
Museum of International Folk Art
Santa Fe's folk art museum is among the best in the world and one of the city's most colorful stops. It has a whopping 150,000 objects in its collection spanning Asia, Africa and the Americas. The displays are colorful and free-wheeling, and curated to show how art and crafts help communities define who they are and where they have been.
706 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, 505-476-1200, internationalfolkart.org.
Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian
There's big news at the Wheelwright this summer. In June, the museum opens its Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry, a 2,000 square-foot gallery that will be the first permanent museum space dedicated to American Indian jewelry. So, in addition to the Wheelwright's rotating, and often provocative, exhibits of contemporary American Indian art, visitors will get their fill of Navajo and Pueblo accessories, lapidary and stone carving.
704 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, 505-982-4636, wheelwright.org.
David Richard Gallery
No gallery keeps the spirit of contemporary art alive in Santa Fe better than David Richard, now located in the Railyard District. The gallery has a unique identity in the local scene, specializing in work from the 1960s through the 1980s. You see big names there, from a living and not-long-dead set broad enough to include Willem De Kooning, Francis Celentano and Judy Chicago.
544 S. Guadalupe St., Santa Fe, 505-983-9555, davidrichardgallery.com
The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
Few places are as keenly in touch with their cultural heritage as New Mexico, which has amassed a collection of 75,000 objects from native communities across the Southwest. This museum's array of textiles, baskets, jewelry, paintings and pottery cross the line between fine art and craft and teach a multimedia lesson on just how diverse, and delightful, this genre can be.
710 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, 505-476-1250, indianartsandculture.org.
New Mexico Museum of Art
Most major art collections are held by cities, but New Mexico takes a broader approach, collecting as a state and centering its exhibits in this tightly woven compound in downtown Santa Fe. The collection take cues from the state's various cultures, but is broad enough to include work from across the globe. It's an encyclopedic museum with a strong local identity, and different every time you walk in.
107 W. Palace Ave., Santa Fe, 505-476-5072, nmartmuseum.org.
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
No single institution has done more to change the way people think about current Indian culture than the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. Show after show, the gallery surprises visitors with a broad array of painting, sculpture, ceramics and installations from artists near and far. The museum, part of the Institute of American Indian Arts, showcases both its 7,500-object collection and temporary exhibitions from working artists.
108 Cathedral Place, Santa Fe, 505-983-8900, iaia.edu/museum.
It's a bit unfair to lump the dozens of galleries that line Canyon Road into one group. They run the gamut, stylistically, from traditional to avant garde, and financially, from affordable to outrageous. But people tend to visit them as a group, spending full afternoons wandering shop to shop. Individually, they have their thrills, but collectively they offer one of the most satisfying art strolls in the America.
A good start: Canyon Road and Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe. canyonroadarts.com