Santa Fe may be a small city, but when it comes to national rankings it takes its place alongside New York and Los Angeles as one of the top three art markets by volume. It regularly comes in either second or third in the rankings, depending on whom you ask, beating out notably art-conscious cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and Miami.
But it’s not just its size that differentiates Santa Fe from other art markets. The artistic tradition here goes back centuries, and the local aesthetic has incorporated both prehistoric design elements and contemporary aesthetics to forge an identity uniquely its own. Despite the general misimpression that Santa Fe art galleries are all about “cowboys and Indians,” local galleries have long embraced contemporary art along with Western and regional art, offering a mix of styles and techniques as complex and soul-satisfying as any art market in the world.
What really sets Santa Fe art galleries apart, though, is their accessibility and friendliness. Gallerists know that many visitors to Santa Fe are not experienced buyers of art, so they’re more than happy to take the time to discuss the artists’ techniques, inspirations, and mediums to help newcomers to the art world enjoy the experience. Unlike the sometimes intimidating atmosphere you’ll find in galleries in the bigger cities, Santa Fe’s ambience is welcoming and inclusive.
“In my gallery, I like to share information about the artists or arrange for buyers to meet the artists to personalize the art-buying experience,” says Nancy Hunter, Hunter Kirkland Contemporary’s director. “Santa Fe is a particularly good destination for buying art because the experience here is more congenial than in places like San Francisco or New York, where I’ve also sold art. People can develop a relationship with both the art dealer and the artists. I rarely hear negative comments, but I often hear people say things like, ‘I never thought I would like contemporary art, but I love what you are showing the gallery.’”
Experienced collectors are equally drawn to Santa Fe art galleries because of the quality and breadth of their offerings. And whether you’re an art expert or a novice, you’ll enjoy the festive atmosphere of the city’s Friday night gallery openings, where locals and visitors come together to celebrate art in all its forms. Most people make an evening of it, visiting galleries from 5 to 7 p.m., then heading out for dinner in one of Santa Fe’s fine restaurants to continue the conversation.