A number of arts institutions across New Mexico celebrate significant anniversaries this year, including Chiaroscuro Gallery and Gebert Contemporary, Nüart Gallery, SITE Santa Fe, and Richard Levy Gallery.
Chiaroscuro Gallery and Gebert Contemporary, Santa Fe
From the adobe facade of the compound on Canyon Road, its steps to the gallery interiors surrounded by aspen trees, Chiaroscuro Gallery and Gebert Contemporary, which share an expansive property, offer patrons the opportunity to step into a world apart. And they’ve been doing so for twenty years now.
On the stretch of Santa Fe’s famous road that houses hundreds of galleries, these two affiliated spaces have stood out for decades in their curation of contemporary work. In the case of Gebert Gallery, that includes painting and sculpture from the international set (always making space for emerging artists as well as those already well established); at Chiaroscuro, work by twenty represented artists, which include all-embracing landscape photographs from the likes of Renate Aller to the architectural steel pieces of Peter Millet, challenge and inspire. And there are artists working in many media in between who are regularly on view here.
The director at Chiaroscuro, John Addison, has learned how to create a thriving market at the gallery by finding the right niche. “The Santa Fe art market is dynamic and ever-changing, and we’ve learned to carve out a unique niche for our represented artists and clients, locally and nationally.” In the face of such flux, this is, in part, what lends Chiaroscuro and Gebert Contemporary an enduring quality.
While patrons have been inspired for two decades now, the benefits run both ways. “Every solo exhibition we present brings with it a solid month of talking about a new body of work, which in many cases took the artist a year or more to create and a lifetime to conceptualize. This process of engaging the audience and immersing ourselves in the fresh artwork keeps us energized,” Addison said.
Despite the “seemingly endless decisions and forks in the road” that come with running a gallery, these sister spaces have managed to navigate the twin waters of business and the art world, but leaving it at that is too cold—they also highlight exceptional work, engaging audiences in ways as dynamic as that ever-changing art world outside the gallery doors.
Celebrate with Gebert Contemporary and Chiaroscuro by stopping in to see shows throughout the year that pay homage to the artists who have been represented by the galleries for the majority of the last twenty years.
Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe
Nüart Gallery has carved out its own little space for contemporary art on Santa Fe’s Canyon Road for the last twenty years, where its founders envisioned a place to exhibit their own favorite artists. It was the turn of the century as their plans got underway, and that sense of momentum and possibility has imbued the rooms of Nüart Gallery ever since.
Expansive, encompassing ten distinct spaces, the gallery is arranged in such a way as to move visitors through it with ease, never dulling their attention or creating distraction. The visitors found wandering throughout the gallery have been locals who wander in on an afternoon stroll as well as serious collectors traveling internationally.
The gallery represents a core group of twenty-six artists whose work runs the gamut. Here there are pieces from the likes of Jorge Leyva’s steel sculptures that meld both abstract and familiar shapes into graceful, albeit large-scale, pieces. You can find artists working in figurative painting, like John Tarahteef’s works in acrylic or Alberto Galvez’s striking portraiture on linen. Alongside these are abstract pieces by Claire B. Cotts, Hyunmee Lee, and Rose Masterpol, to name just a few of the artists you can find within these walls.
Nüart Gallery approaches curation with a sense of responsibility, operating with a keen awareness of how art impacts and enriches lives (viewers, patrons, and the artists themselves). And the purveyors at Nüart take the role seriously—and with a grain of salt—acknowledging what a privilege it is to be stewards of this work. A twenty-year track record is a testament to how well they do it.
SITE Santa Fe has become a mecca for blockbuster exhibitions, edgy contemporary art shows, and thoughtful pieces presented in new and surprising ways. This institution is equally well-loved and well-trafficked, striking a balance between drawing in crowds and maintaining integrity. SITE draws visitors and artists from all over the globe, underlining New Mexico’s name as one of the preeminent destinations for art in North America.
SITE is in it for the long run, taking up residence in the railyard district a bit more than twenty-five years ago in what was once a beer warehouse. Since then, SITE leadership has expanded the space to 35,000 feet in order to expand both operational and programmatic yardage, though each gallery maintains a certain intimacy that contributes to the overall experience. In addition to the galleries, educational and social spaces build out the rest of the expansive facility on Paseo de Peralta.
The institution was conceived to bring international arts dialogues to the Southwest, and has managed to do just that via its earliest biennial exhibitions, and now through SITElines, a series of related exhibitions and community engagement pieces started in 2014 to create continuity between biennials and highlight all too often under-recognized perspectives. These work with the biennial structure (occurring every two years), but add a depth of focus by concentrating specifically on art in the Americas.
You could write a book on SITE Santa Fe’s history, track record, and plans for the future. But better just to plan a visit. Their website offers a comprehensive list of exhibitions and other programming, including the ongoing retrospective Mary Weatherford: Canyon—Daisy—Eden (through September 5, 2021).
Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque
Richard Levy Gallery has—for three decades now—been one of Central Avenue’s primary hubs for contemporary art from within Albuquerque city limits and well beyond. The downtown mainstay has been making waves since the ’90s when one of their inaugural events—an art fair in Chicago—inspired thirty more years of travel, art shows, and hosting exhibitions from their airy, modern home base at 514 Central SW.
Richard Levy Gallery has now become a local mainstay, highlighting cutting-edge artists from the state and region as well as those making waves nationally and internationally. The brick facade and large windows looking out to the sidewalk are (well, in times past) consistently crowded with people on First Fridays and busy with conversation about what’s currently on display.
The Richard Levy staff are spending 2021 reflecting on the gallery’s impressive lifespan and marking the event with a series of pop-ups in Santa Fe hosted in collaboration with Pie Projects. The first—for spring—opened in March, and summer, fall, and winter are on the books. In addition, the gallery proper will host a group show that celebrates the talent, brilliance, and collective momentum of the local community. The show, to be premiered in late fall, will be viewable by appointment only, though staff are keeping their fingers crossed that a traditional in-person reception might be possible by the time doors open in November.
What has kept the lights on at Richard Levy all these years? Richard Levy himself said that he’s learned “To always move forward. To trust in instincts. To work with good people.” That forward momentum has not only sustained the gallery but created both traction and opportunity for the city’s creatives. “Promoting the arts, building relationships, and supporting artists are so very rewarding on many levels,” Levy and gallery director Viviette Hunt said.
I asked what advice they would give to those just starting out in the art world, or those aspiring to the work that Richard Levy has done so successfully for thirty years. They said, “Be smart, be versatile, stretch yourself. Embrace challenges as growth opportunities, because there will be many.” They ended on a high note, summing up their success nicely with, “Do what you love. Love what you do.”