Artists first came to Santa Fe at the dawn of the 20th century, many attracted by the high desert landscape and the quality of the light. Before there were galleries, some artists welcomed prospective buyers to their studios, many on Canyon Road. Formal galleries came later. Frances Namingha of Niman Fine Arts said that there were only three in 1972. The proliferation of galleries began in the mid-1980s. Today there somewhere around 200, found mostly in the three principal art areas: Canyon Road (perhaps the best known), Downtown and the trendy Railyard District. While many galleries show some contemporary art, around two dozen galleries are specifically dedicated to the genre.
Ask ten art experts “What is contemporary art?” and you’ll probably get ten different answers. The one thing they seem to agree on is? That it’s art being created by living artists, whether it be cutting edge, figural or abstract.
Many contemporary galleries call the Railyard Art District home. Over the last few years, several contemporary art houses have relocated there. There’s also a selection both on Canyon Road and downtown. Friday night gallery openings are popular in Santa Fe. Canyon Road has an Artwalk on most Fridays in season especially in season (between May and October), Downtown has claimed the first Friday of the month and the Railyard the last. Great resources for local art information: the Santa Fe Gallery Association’s website and in The Collectors Guide, a free publication found all around Santa Fe.