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From SITE to MoCNA: Eight Engrossing Santa Fe Art Museums

7 min read

Amidst the stunning landscapes and historic adobe architecture of New Mexico, Santa Fe has cultivated a reputation as an artistic haven—drawing creators and connoisseurs alike from around the globe. From the avant-garde exhibitions at SITE Santa Fe to the profound Indigenous narratives housed in the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA), the institutions that fill Santa Fe’s Museum Hill underscore this city’s pivotal role in the broader art world. In this article, we list eight art museums Santa Fe has to offer—noting current and upcoming exhibitions by each institution. While in Santa Fe, be sure to visit galleries lining Old Santa Fe Trail and Canyon Road.

8 Must-Visit Art Museums in Santa Fe

Museum of International Folk Art

Founded in 1953 and situated on Museum Hill, the Museum of International Folk Art houses the world’s largest collection of international folk art. With over 130,000 artifacts from more than 100 countries, its mission is to foster appreciation of the traditional arts to enrich lives and inspire understanding of cultural diversity.

The museum’s most renowned section is the Alexander Girard Wing. This wing displays a vast, vibrant collection curated by designer Alexander Girard.

Address: 706 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, NM 87505

Website:www.internationalfolkart.org

Current Exhibitions

  • Ghhúunayúkata / To Keep Them Warm: The Alaska Native Parka
  • Between the Lines: Prison Art & Advocacy | A Community Conversation
  • La Cartonería Mexicana / The Mexican Art of Paper and Paste

Upcoming Shows

  • Protection: Adaptation and Resistance
  • Staff Picks: Favorites from the Collection
  • Between the Lines: Prison Art & Advocacy

New Mexico Museum of Art

Opened in 1917, the New Mexico Museum of Art focuses on presenting the visual arts of New Mexico and the American Southwest. Its permanent collection features over 20,000 artworks—including pieces by prominent Southwestern artists. Through its exhibitions and programs, the museum strives to engage audiences in the richness of New Mexico’s artistic legacy. The Vladem Contemporary Annex was slated for completion by September of this year, but has run into a few issues.

Address: 107 W Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Website: www.nmartmuseum.org

Current Exhibitions

  • Selections from the 20th Century Collection
  • The Nature of Glass
  • Manuel Carrillo: Mexican Modernist

Upcoming Shows

  • Out West: Gay and Lesbian Artists in the Southwest 1900-1969
  • Ways of Seeing: Four Photographic Collections

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum honors the life, legacy, and artistic contributions of its namesake—Georgia O’Keeffe. Established in 1997, merely a decade after O’Keeffe’s passing, the museum has since become a pivotal center for research, education, and exhibition related to the iconic artist.

O’Keeffe, often referred to as the “Mother of American modernism,” left an indelible mark on the art world with her distinctive paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. The museum is home to the largest permanent collection of O’Keeffe’s works—with over 3,000 items. This collection spans her early abstract works to her later, more representational and symbolic pieces.

The museum’s scope extends far beyond just displaying her art. Through a display of her personal belongings, letters, and photographs, visitors gain insights into her inspirations, challenges, and the evolution of her artistic vision. Research initiatives and educational programs further delve into her influence on American modernism and her interactions with contemporaneous artists and photographers.

Integral to the museum’s mission is its dedication to inspiring future generations of artists and thinkers. By offering a comprehensive look at O’Keeffe’s innovative approach to art and her persistent challenge of traditional artistic norms, the museum serves not just as an archive of her work, but as a beacon for artistic exploration and individual expression.

Address: 217 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Website:www.okeeffemuseum.org

Contemporary Native Arts

Operated by the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts is a pioneering institution dedicated to increasing public understanding and appreciation of contemporary Native art, history, and culture. Founded in 1972, MoCNA is prominently located in the historic Santa Fe Plaza and holds the distinction of being the only museum in the country that focuses solely on exhibiting, interpreting, and promoting contemporary Native art.

The museum’s collection boasts an impressive array of innovative visual arts produced by leading Indigenous artists from North America—including works that range from traditional techniques to avant-garde expressions in new media. MoCNA regularly features thought-provoking exhibitions and public programming that reflect the diversity and complexity of contemporary Indigenous viewpoints.

Through its dedication to Native artists and communities, MoCNA showcases the artistic evolution and profound narratives that stem from Indigenous cultural experiences. The ethos of the museum emphasizes not only the aesthetic value but also the socio-political importance of the art it houses. In doing so, it fosters an environment where artists can challenge perceptions, push boundaries, and engage audiences in meaningful dialogues about Indigenous identity in the modern world.

Address: 108 Cathedral Pl, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Website: www.iaia.edu/museum

Current Exhibitions

  • The Stories We Carry
  • The Art of Jean LaMarr

SITE Santa Fe

Inaugurated in 1995, SITE Santa Fe is committed to nurturing innovation in contemporary art. While it doesn’t have a permanent collection, its dynamic programming and biennial exhibitions have made it a focal point for contemporary art in the Southwest. SITE’s ethos is rooted in fostering artistic experimentation and expanding the boundaries of traditional museum exhibition formats.

Address: 1606 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Website: www.sitesantafe.org

Current Exhibitions

  • Deborah Roberts: Come walk in my shoes
  • N.Dash: and Water
  • Nicholas Galanin: Interference Patterns

Upcoming Shows

  • Billie Zangewa: Field of Dreams
  • Carmen Herrera

Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian

Founded in 1937, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian is New Mexico’s oldest independent, non-profit museum. Its permanent collection emphasizes Native American jewelry and ceramics, documenting the artistic traditions of Indigenous peoples. The museum’s mission is to promote appreciation for and knowledge of Native American art and cultures.

Address: 704 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, NM 87505

Website:www.wheelwright.org

Current Exhibitions

  • Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry
  • California Stars: Huivaniūs Pütsiv
  • “All Together. Making our Way. Every day. Medicine.” by Eliza Naranjo Morse

Upcoming Shows

  • Centers of Influence
  • The Object is Graphic: Native American Prints and Posters
  • Sky City Salute: Pottery of Acoma Pueblo

El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe

Founded with the aim of preserving, promoting, and advancing the Hispanic culture of Northern New Mexico and the greater Southwest, El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe serves as a vibrant community and educational center. The museum’s vast collection comprises historical and contemporary exhibits reflecting the rich tapestry of Hispanic arts, crafts, and traditions.

It offers a platform for Hispanic artists and craftsmen to showcase their work, thereby bridging the past with the present. Through its events, classes, and exhibitions, El Museo embodies its commitment to education and cultural preservation, fostering understanding and appreciation of the depth and breadth of Hispanic culture.

For those specifically interested in Spanish colonial art, Santa Fe’s Museum of Spanish Colonial Art might be more directly relevant. This museum specializes in art from the Spanish colonial period and has a vast collection of pieces from this era.

Address: 555 Camino de la Familia, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Website: www.elmuseocultural.org

Current Exhibitions

  • The Guzmán Paintings

Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA)

Since its inception, the Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA) has been at the forefront of promoting contemporary art and culture in Santa Fe. With its emphasis on innovative and challenging works, the CCA provides a platform for both emerging and established artists across various media—including film, visual arts, and performance.

The institution is renowned for its curated film screenings, which bring a diverse array of cinema to the community. Through its multifaceted programs, the CCA’s mission is to inspire, engage, and challenge audiences—cultivating an environment where contemporary art thrives and provokes dialogues.

Address: 1050 Old Pecos Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87505

Website:www.ccasantafe.org

Past Exhibitions

  • Meridel Rubenstein’s Critical Mass
  • Self-Determined: A Contemporary Survey of Native and Indigenous Artists

Which New Mexico Museum Will You Visit While in Santa Fe?

Which art museum is on your list? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to stop by the many galleries that line Old Santa Fe Trail and Canyon Road. The road itself—with its adobe walls, rose gardens, and historic architecture—is a visual treat.

Throughout the year, events like the “Canyon Road Paint & Sculpt Out” bring artists out onto the streets—allowing visitors to watch them work in real-time. The holiday season’s “Farolito Walk” is particularly enchanting—with the road lit up by thousands of farolitos (luminarias) and throngs of locals and visitors celebrating together.

Stop by these Canyon Road galleries…

  • Pippin Contemporary—which is known for its vibrant and uplifting pieces of abstract art, sculptures, and glasswork.
  • Wiford Gallery—which offers a vast range of contemporary works, from paintings to large-scale outdoor sculptures.
  • Adobe Gallery—which offers both antique and contemporary Pueblo pottery, paintings, and Katsina dolls.
  • Gebert Contemporary—which focuses on abstract and contemporary works across various media.
  • Turner Carroll Gallery—which showcases international contemporary art and emphasizes the socio-political aspects of artistic expression.
  • Ventana Fine Art—which is located in a historic schoolhouse and offers contemporary American and European art, from paintings to sculptures.
  • Tewa Gallery—which focuses on Native American and Southwestern art, including pottery, jewelry, and textiles.