There are more than 250 art galleries in Santa Fe. Full disclosure: I have not visited every last one of them. But if you want to try, the lion’s share are spread among three districts: Canyon Road, the Railyard, and the Downtown Arts and Museum District. When I need inspiration, I start with a Friday night Artwalk on Canyon Road, where more than 80 galleries—most housed in historic adobes—open their doors and offer food and drink to passerby. Wandering guests can gaze at Native American weavings, classic Western oil paintings, or avant-garde bronze sculptures. Downtown, I wander between museums and galleries, which exhibit works spanning both historical and contemporary, and local and international art. For the most concentrated modern-art collections, I head to the cluster of warehouse-sized galleries in the Railyard District. Most often, though, I just wander the city. Eventually, I almost always happen upon exceptional art.
Gerald Peters Gallery
Peters’ powerful collection of major American art, from the 1800s to the present, makes this 8,500 square-foot gallery a museum unto itself. When he first opened in 1972, Peters laid his foundation with classic Western art; today, though, his collection displays major works in genres from European impressionism to American modernism—and includes an adjoining sculpture garden.
Turner Caroll Gallery
The cornerstone of contemporary art on Canyon Road, this gallery features important international contemporary artists. The most compelling exhibition in Santa Fe right now is “Survival: Hung Liu, Traian Filip, Nele Zirnite, Igor Melnikov, Georges Mazilu and Wanxin Zhang,” featuring works by artists who have “lived under regimes not appreciative of their efforts.”
Nedra Matteucci Galleries
Start your exploration of this gallery in its expansive outdoor sculpture garden, punctuated by Glenna Goodacre’s life-size bronzes of children. Then move inside to spend some time poring over Matteucci’s historic collection of Western and Southwestern art, including works by famed Taos Society artists J.H. Sharp, Victor Higgens, and Ernest Blumenschein.
Zane Bennett Contemporary
Interestingly, this Railyard gallery, which is internationally renowned for its contemporary art, is housed in a two-story adobe that looks straight out of a classic Western film. The latest exhibit here features the work of 16 Japanese artists, from the ethereal watercolor and pastel creations of Noda Hitomi to the fantastical inkjet prints of Ikeda Manabu.
Mydans, Eisenstaedt, Bourke-White, Newman—the world’s most iconic black-and-white photojournalists are represented at this 1,700-foot gallery. A visit here is as much a lesson in world history as it is in art. The current exhibition is “Steve Schapiro: Once Upon a Time in America,” with a focus on photographs from the Civil Rights Movement, specifically Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.