One of Santa Fe's Most Exciting Neighborhoods Is Getting an Impressive Contemporary Art Museum This Month

The Vladem Contemporary will be a secondary location to the New Mexico Museum of Art.

<p>Tira Howard Photography</p>

Tira Howard Photography

Ever since the New Mexico Museum of Art opened in 1917, the contemporary art museum has been housed in a Pueblo Revival-style building in Santa Fe Plaza. Now more than a century after its opening, it’s keeping up with its commitment to modern arts and culture by expanding with a second building called Vladem Contemporary in the burgeoning Railyard district of the city. The new space will hold its grand opening on Sept. 23.

“Our 1917 Plaza building is wonderful but not the best venue for displaying the art of our time, and it lacked the necessary space for our growing collection and educational outreach,” Mark White, the museum’s executive director told Travel + Leisure. “The Vladem Contemporary will allow us to exhibit cutting-edge contemporary art, provide a permanent space for education, and expand our storage.”

<p>Tira Howard Photography</p>

Tira Howard Photography

The secondary location will add 9,969 square feet of exhibition space and 2,307 square feet of programmatic space to the Van Mabee Education Center. There's another 4,100 square feet for storing pieces, as the museum’s collection has expanded to more than 20,000 pieces over the last century.

The new building will open with an inaugural exhibition entitled "Shadow and Light," which will spotlight the famous natural light in the state. It will run through April 28, 2024.

“The Vladem Contemporary will focus exclusively on the art of our time,” White said. To focus on that commitment, the museum will constantly experiment with programming types, (Among them is a sound sculpture from olfactory-acoustic artist Oswlado Macia and an augmented reality exhibit with Judy Chicago’s series "Kitty City.") They’ll also have a Window Box Project with installations from underrecognized New Mexico artists and a digital window to showcase videos and short films.

<p>Photograph: Robert Wedemeyer Courtesy Holt/Smithson Foundation and Sprüth Magers © Holt/Smithson Foundation / Licensed by Artists Rights Society, New York</p> Nancy Holt, Light and Shadow Photo Drawings (1978) Installation view: Nancy Holt: Locating Perception, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles, 2022 Twenty-two inkjet prints on archival rag paper from original 35mm transparencies 191⁄2 à 30 in.(50 à 76 cm) each Edition of 3 + 1AP

One of White’s favorite parts of the new building is a permanent installation, Leo Villareal’s "Astral Array." Set in a breezeway and running 24 hours a day, “the work is composed of hundreds of LEDs that create a variety of patterns suggestive of cloud formations, celestial fields, and microscopic forms,” he described.

The building itself is also a piece of local history and has turned into a shining example of adaptive reuse. When philanthropists Robert and Ellen Vladem made the lead gift of $4 million in 2017 that kicked off the $20.2 million partnership for the project, architectural firms DNCA and StudioGP were tasked with creating an “innovative structure that adapted an existing building as a showplace for the art of our time,” the museum’s site explained.

<p>Courtesy of New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary</p> Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2015, stainless steel, urethane. Tia Collection, Santa Fe, NM.

Courtesy of New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2015, stainless steel, urethane. Tia Collection, Santa Fe, NM.

The team honed in on a warehouse that had been commissioned in 1936 and closed operations in 1959, later becoming the State Records Center and Archives in 1960. They adapted it into the exhibition space, including adding a bridge-like second floor that spans the original building.

Vladem Contemporary also hopes to become a prime destination for The Railyard, which White calls “one of the most exciting districts in Santa Fe” with restaurants, shops, galleries, and multiple museums. “With SITE Santa Fe on one end, the Vladem Contemporary on the other, and numerous contemporary galleries in between, the Railyard is a major destination for contemporary art and culture,” he said.

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