Santa Fe’s art scene outpaces most other U.S. cities, especially considering that the city's population is only around 70,000 people. Santa Fe has the largest proportion of artists, performers, and writers as a share of local employment of any U.S. city. As far as art sales go, Santa Fe is among the largest art markets in the U.S., contending with New York and Los Angeles for the top spot. The art scene is also set apart from other areas of the country thanks to its Native American and Spanish colonial arts.
The city has more than 250 galleries that operate throughout the year, but the city’s art scene surges during a handful of summer art markets including the International Folk Art Market, the Traditional Spanish Market, and the Santa Fe Indian Market. If you’re in the mood to shop (or browse), galleries are clustered around the Plaza, along Canyon Road, and in the Railyard. The first Friday of the month, many galleries host new show openings, making it one of the best times to visit. Galleries stay open later than usual and ply guests with wine and snacks as they browse.
Blue Rain Gallery
Leroy Garcia founded this gallery in Taos in 1993, but today Blue Rain exclusively operates out of Santa Fe’s Railyard district. The 10,000-square-foot building is flooded with light, and browsing here feels like visiting an art museum. Although the gallery doesn’t exclusively hang the works of contemporary Native American artists, quite a number show here, including renowned painter Tony Abeyta and glass artist Preston Singletary.
With New York and Santa Fe satellites, this gallery exhibits major American paintings and sculpture from the 19th century to the present. The Santa Fe location is just off Canyon Road in an adobe-style building. Past exhibitions have featured everything from the wood block prints of early Santa Fe artist Gustave Baumann, to Janis Joplin photographs taken by her road manager, to contemporary works in the adjacent Gerald Peters Projects.
Nedra Matteucci Galleries
This high-end gallery adjacent to Canyon Road, specializes in important historical American art, particularly those from the Taos Society of Artists—a group of early 20th century artists who established that northern New Mexico town as an art colony and had impacts far beyond the state. In summer, plan to spend time wandering the shady, verdant sculpture garden behind Nedra Matteucci Galleries. It’s a destination in its own right. Sister gallery, Morning Star Gallery, on Canyon Road, focuses on Native American antiques.
Lyn A. Fox Fine Pueblo Pottery
Owned by Lyn Fox, this eponymous gallery specializes in historic and modern-day pottery. Fox has become a true expert in antique pottery, which had utilitarian use over the centuries but still finds space on collectors’ shelves. He curates pottery from some of the finest Pueblo potters today; many of which win ribbons from the competitive Santa Fe Indian Market.
Shiprock Santa Fe
Probably the most Instagrammed gallery in Santa Fe thanks to its enviable jewelry displays and rug rooms, Shiprock Santa Fe stocks 300 to 400 Navajo rugs. Fifth-generation trader Jed Foutz curates the selections. He grew up in a family has operated trading posts across the Navajo Nation since the 1870s and his expertise shines through in the fine collection of mostly vintage rugs and jewelry.
Zane Bennett Contemporary Art
Zane Bennett Contemporary Art is known for its architecture as well as its art. Set in the Railyard District, its adobe-style exterior blends with the cityscape. Inside, the cutting-edge design rivals the best contemporary galleries in the U.S. with a two-story central atrium and glass staircase. Zane Bennett generally represents the bold-faced names of the contemporary art world and draws artists, and collectors, from across the country.
EVOKE Contemporary spotlights some of the more recognized painters and sculptors working today in its Railyard District gallery. The blue-chip artists include figurative painter Kent Williams, landscape painters Francis Di Fronzo and Lisa Grossman, and painter of endangered animal species, Ester Curini.
Manitou Galleries has two Santa Fe Locations—one just off the Plaza, and the other on Canyon Road. Originally founded in Wyoming, where it still has a gallery, Manitou represents some 50 contemporary artists primarily from the American Southwest. It offers representational paintings, sculpture, prints, glass, and jewelry. Though some may be smithed with silver and set with turquoise gemstones in the quintessential Southwest style, the jewelry here is decidedly more contemporary than traditional.
True West Gallery
If you’re on the hunt for iconic New Mexican art—Native American and Southwestern jewelry, Navajo weavings, Pueblo pottery—this is your spot. True West Gallery offers some of the best of the best, and there’s an ample collection for browsing. You’ll also find katsina (also called kachina), stone-carved fetishes, photography, and bronze sculpture here.
Turner Carroll Gallery
Established in 1991 and owned and operated by Michael Carroll and Tonya Turner Carroll, this Canyon Road gallery shows emerging and established museum-curated artists from all over the world. Contemporary exhibitions from Romania, Ireland, France, Russia, and Mexico have all been shown previously. The artists’ media spans from oil painting to mixed-media creations to works on paper.