The art scene in Santa Fe is a wheel with two hubs. Although galleries are spread all over town, there are two distinct art centers: The Railyard and Canyon Road. Each of these distinct art centers has a different focus, history and sense of identity, and visits to each center will leave very different impressions of Santa Fe’s visual culture.
The narrow Canyon Road comprises an eclectic mix of 130 mostly adobe galleries and restaurants that wind up the hill, near Santa Fe’s historic plaza. As a whole, and more so than anywhere else in town, the Canyon Road galleries embrace Santa Fe’s rich traditions with craft and the human response to the landscape. Canyon Road has for a long time been a hub of artistic production. And in Santa Fe, a long time really is a long time. The first adobe structures appeared on Canyon Road in the 1750’s. Even then, Canyon Road was a craft-making hub for Santa Fe. By the early 1900’s established artists, mostly painters, from the East Coast were setting up their studios on Canyon Road, and this seven-block stretch quickly became known as an artist’s colony. Two favorite galleries in this area are Eight Modern, with artists such as Lora Fosberg and Linda Whitaker, and Turner Carroll, which focuses on international contemporary art and represents well known artists such as, Chuck Close, Squeak Carnwath, Deborah Oropallo, Enrique Chagoya, Hung Liu and many others.
Entrance to Canyon Rd. 2011. Photo Matthew Mullins.
In my opinion, the Railyard is the best place to go for contemporary art. The relatively newly developed Railyard is the home of many top quality galleries and SITE Santa Fe, which is Santa Fe’s premier venue for innovative and thoughtful contemporary shows. Built in 1995, SITE Santa Fe was the first major art venue in the Railyard and has been instrumental in introducing Santa Fe to international contemporary artwork. SITE’s biennial program gives independent curators the opportunity to exhibit what they think is the best work that is being done around the world. Biennial curators have included Venice Biennial curator, Robert Storr, and MacArthur Genius Award winner, Dave Hickey. SITE Santa Fe receives significant recognition from the international art community, and it has definitely put Santa Fe on the worldwide contemporary art calendar.
The Railyard’s other galleries, led by James Kelly Contemporary, quickly constellated around SITE and turned the Railyard into Santa Fe’s blue-chip contemporary art destination. James Kelly, the first gallery to move into the Railyard, opened their doors with an inaugural show that featured prominent New Mexican artists Richard Tuttle, Agnes Martin, Susan Rothenberg and Bruce Nauman. Other galleries of note include: Charlotte Jackson Fine Art which specializes in minimal color field and modern works from the United States and Europe; Gebert Contemporary which specializes in abstract sculpture and painting from an international group of artists; LewAllen which also has a gallery downtown; William Siegal which shows contemporary work along with Ancient artifacts and textiles; and the Zane Bennett Gallery, where one can find work from high caliber artists such as Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon, Helen Frankenthaler and Anish Kapoor.
Site Santa Fe. Photo: Herbert Lotz, 2005.
Although Canyon Road and The Railyard are Santa Fe’s hubs of visual culture and artistic activity, they are not the only places to go for your dose of art. Dwight Hackett Projects is not to be missed. This gallery is located in one of Santa Fe’s industrial areas, amongst a concentration of art studios and mechanic shops. Dwight Hackett Projects represent several artists who are collected in museums (Lynda Benglis, Jay DeFeo and Kiki Smith) along with artists who are in earlier stages of their careers. There are many more art spaces to be discovered within Santa Fe proper, as well as in surrounding environs.
It may be surprising to note that Santa Fe, a city with less than 70,000 people, is the second largest art market (in terms of dollars) in the United States. It is also boasts the highest population of artists, per capita, than anywhere else in the US. UNESCO has even bestowed the title of Creative City upon Santa Fe to recognize the city’s cultural protection and preservation of the visual arts.
Santa Fe has a quiet, under-spoken nature that belies the richness and diversity of its art, but it is easy to see why Santa Fe has a history of attracting artists and collectors from all over the world.
Top Photo: The Santa Fe Railyard. Matthew Mullins, 2011.