Santa Fe is the third-largest art market in the United States after New York and Los Angeles. The population of The City Different is drastically lower, though, so the concentration of art is arguably the highest you’ll find anywhere! With 250 galleries and counting, and a smattering of world-class museums, if you’re an art lover or on the lookout for new pieces to add to your collection, Santa Fe’s a must for your travel bucket list. Whatever your taste, you are bound to find something here that speaks to your soul. As you plan your trip, you’ll find that much of The City Different’s art can be found in four unique districts. Here’s what you absolutely can’t miss.
A natural starting point for any art-centric trip to Santa Fe, Museum Hill is an oasis of creativity nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains not far from the historic Old Santa Fe Trail. Here, you’ll find four museums constantly showcasing unique and relevant exhibitions as well as impressive permanent collections. Our favorite? The nationally renowned Museum of International Folk Art, home to bright and unexpected pieces that will inspire you to build a collection of your own. Also on Museum Hill you’ll find the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. Make a day of it with lunch at Museum Hill Café (we love their handmade desserts!) and a stroll around the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, bursting with unique local plant life.
The iconic Santa Fe Plaza is the centerpiece of the centuries-old city, where history comes to life on every corner. No matter the reason for your visit, you’ll find something to inspire you, whether it’s the beautiful cathedral, the mysterious Loretto Chapel, the rows and rows of handcrafted turquoise jewelry for sale or the restaurants serving one-of-a-kind local fare. It is especially exciting for art lovers, because the heavy concentration of galleries and museums is awe-inspiring to behold. From the New Mexico History Museum, housed in the oldest continuously-inhabited building in the US, the Palace of the Governors, to the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, you’ll find exhibitions aplenty that will inform and excite you as you begin to build your collection. The Plaza is also chock-full of galleries specializing in everything from textiles and sculpture to jewelry and paintings.
Our favorite place to start? The Allan Houser Gallery. Over 100 works by Houser, one of the most famous Native American artists of the 20th century, are showcased year-round. Bronze and stone sculpture, charcoal and pastel drawings, and tempera and acrylic paintings are all on display.
Another favorite in the Downtown area is Patina Gallery, the best place in The City Different to collect pieces of wearable art. Santa Fe is famous for its unique and eye-catching jewelry, and at Patina, you’ll find a wealth of choices inspired by the one-of-a-kind landscape of northern New Mexico.
Spending time in downtown Santa Fe puts you right in the heart of one of the country’s most thriving arts scenes. Meet likeminded people and mingle with artists in residence every month during the First Friday Art Walk . It is definitely an experiencing worth scheduling your trip around.
Railyard Arts District
The Railyard Arts District turns everything you thought you knew about Santa Fe’s art scene on its head. Located within walking distance of the historic Plaza, the area is home to nine galleries and one museum, all housed in ultra-modern, airy warehouse-style spaces. Each space specializes in contemporary art made by both emerging and established artists, local as well as international. Pieces are available at all price points, so it is easy to find what you’re looking for here.
A great place to start is at SITE Santa Fe, a contemporary arts museum with an international reputation for showcasing the most innovative work available. Stops at Charlotte Jackson Fine Art and Evoke Contemporary are musts as well – of the nine galleries in the Railyard Arts District, these offer the most dynamic mix of emerging and established artists. If you find you’re inspired to create something of your own, head to form & concept, a space unlike anything else in Santa Fe. Here, you can take part in workshops and classes and become an artist yourself.
We love the Railyard Arts District – for more information, check out this feature on the District here.
Daydreaming of a vacation where you can gallery-hop all day long? Sounds like you need to get to Canyon Road! Arguably the best-known of all the art districts in Santa Fe, Canyon Road is home to the largest concentration of galleries in the city. Everything from traditional local art and sculpture is on display, as well as pieces from places as far-flung as Russia and even Florida! No matter when you go, you’re certain to find a brand-new exhibition celebrating the work of someone unique and captivating, and if you are looking for a piece to add to your collection that will inspire you for years to come, there’s no place to start the search than Canyon Road. Tucked between the galleries are chic cafes, high-end restaurants, wine bistros, and beautifully curated gift shops and bookstores.
Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here. If its photography you’re after, Modernist Frontier always has a wonderfully chosen selection of images taken in the American West that will fit in well with any collection. Contemporary art lovers will find inspiration at both ViVo Contemporary and Pippin Contemporary, as well as pieces at a variety of price points by artists both established and emerging.
Before leaving Canyon Road, be sure to check out the iconic Selby Fleetwood Gallery, too – it’s housed in a building that’s more than 250 years old, and the centuries-old space provides a striking contrast to the art that’s on display. Looking for a gift that will make an impact? You can never go wrong with jewelry – especially with pieces from Tresa Vorenberg Goldsmiths. The owner has been honing her skills for decades and her heirloom-quality pieces are legendary in The City Different.
The City Different is small in stature but big on inspiration. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned pro, you’ll discover that there’s always something new to see in Santa Fe!