The “Fine” Art of Finding Galleries in Santa Fe

If you go to Santa Fe to view art worthy of the adjective “fine,” it helps to have a heads up when stumbling through the maze of shops selling turquoise jewelry, boots, hats, dresses, shirts, blankets, pottery, and an amazing variety of kitsch art at over 7,000 feet elevation. In short, it helps to have a list of galleries that show quality contemporary art.

An old Santa Fe door

Almost all of the serious galleries are found south or north of the central plaza. The southern galleries cluster close to the small railroad station, and the northern ones are either around the entrance to or end of Canyon Road. Except for the Site Santa Fe Museum, the galleries may not push the envelope in aesthetics, but they do show a remarkable variety and quantity of well-made art.


A good place to begin is at Site Santa Fe, which is quickly becoming a magnet for national and international visitors, while more and more of Santa Fe’s contemporary galleries are relocating nearby.  Site, a reasonably large space, is modeled on the European Kunsthall and has no permanent collection. Famous for its International Biennial, it has currently teamed with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to present an exhibit entitled, “More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness,” that includes the work of Ai Weiwei. This museum is a constant center for public conversation programs with leading curators, collectors, museum heads, and art dealers. Irving Blum, Angela Westwater, and Sidney Felson/ Joni Weyl of Gemni G.E.L. are scheduled to speak in the near future.

Across the street from Site is a large building containing a number of large, very contemporary looking galleries:

Tai Gallery shows quality contemporary bamboo and photographic works of artists exclusively from Japan.

Charlotte Jackson Gallery is devoted to minimalist art. For excellent assistance, see Helen Colton.

James Kelly Contemporary Gallery is a beautiful exhibition space currently showing dynamically moving paintings of Sam Reveles.

David Richard Contemporary Galleryis another phenomenal space that was installing a new exhibit at the time of my visit.

Zane Bennett Contemporary Gallery is a must-see space that reminded me of LA’s Tasende Gallery. Meeting its director Mark Diprima is a treat for any visitor to the gallery. The paintings of James Havard were on display; powerfully dynamic works, which mix a raw primitiveness with very, sophisticated handling.

James Havard “New Mexico History Page” acrylic on board


Obviously the Plaza’s museums are not to be missed, especially the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum along with a number of good photographic galleries. However, few quality galleries are to be found in this area, with the following exceptions.

Evoke Contemporary Gallery is the best in the Plaza area. Run by Elan Varshay and Kathrine Erickson, the gallery offers a variety of excellent art. Unmistakable were the large life-size sculptures of the LA sculptor David Simon, ultra realistic bronze figures covered with special gypsum plaster, fiberglass, and plastic coating.

David Simon “The Watchman” bronze

Niman Gallery is a gallery that primarily exhibits the excellent works and sculptures of Dan Namingha and Arlo Namingha, sons of the owners.


Karan Ruhlen Galleryis one of my favorites as one moves to the Canyon Road galleries. This is a small but very airy and quaint space that includes an enchanting outdoor sculpture garden. Karan Ruhlen could not be more charming and welcoming.

Magdalena Abakanowicz “Iron Cast-Walking” cast iron

Gerald Peters Gallery at 40,000 square feet (which includes a large book store) is an example of some of the truly large spaces encountered on Canyon Road. Particularly striking was a cast iron sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz at the Gallery entrance.

Gebert Contemporary Gallery is another large gallery midway up Canyon Road with a stable of highly accomplished abstract artists.

Bellas Artes Gallery, located at the end of a long driveway, displays a remarkable variety of art.

Nuart Gallery, part of the upper cluster of Canyon Road galleries, is run by Kim Kelly and Peter Gaugy, a delightful husband and wife team.  Particularly striking were the large works of Cecil Touchon

Cecil Touchon “Post-dogmatist Painting 55/7/558” diptych book collage and acrylic

and a small bronze sculpture by Bill Starke, not unlike my own sculpture.

Bill Starke “The Seeker” bronze

Winterrowd Gallery has, like so many of the galleries, a large assortment of art. Particularly impressive were several paintings by Don Quade consisting of delicate geometrical lines with a Squeak Carnwath-like surface treatment.

Don Quade “September Lotus” acrylic and m/m on panel

GF Contemporary Gallery is a 4,200 square foot space that represents 23 artists, both emerging and established. You enter at one end, go from room to room until you emerge through a door that either lets you exit or loop back for a second look.  The work of two artists stood out in particular, the sculpture of Pascal combining metal and wood, and great collage/paintings by Paul Shapiro. Sabine Hirsch, the director who speaks perfect French, does full justice to managing so much art in so large a space.

Pascal “Synergie 23” bronze and mahogany

Turner Carroll Gallery sits at the top end of Canyon Road and features artist Stephan Buxton as a fabulous gallery director. It was a treat to have such an accomplished artist provide a thorough first-class tour of the gallery. Particularly impressive were the works of Kate Petty and the sculptures of Thomas Ostenberg.

Thomas Ostenberg “Wing and a Prayer” bronze

The visitor will need at least two days to cover these galleries and double that time to do justice to the viewing process. For those used to little or no attention upon entering galleries, you’ll be in for a treat.  More often than not, you’ll find unrushed, friendly directors and owners more than happy to show you around their space; no small addition to one’s viewing pleasure.

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