Collecting in the 20th Century and Beyond

Amid the first blush of a year that will see the August opening of the Vladem Contemporary in Santa Fe’s Railyard Arts District, the New Mexico Museum of Art is launching a series of exhibitions at its original location. These shows celebrate more than 100 years of the museum’s historic collections and look ahead to the cutting-edge works to be featured at the Vladem.

Visitors will experience a permanent shift in focus in the Art Museum’s second-floor galleries. There, selections From the 20th Century Collection brings together “classic treasures and new surprises from the museum’s collection of 20th century art,” says Merry Scully, the museum’s head of curatorial affairs and curator of contemporary art.

From the Taos Society of Artists to members of the Santa Fe art colony and prominent modernists, these installations, on view through December 31, will change periodically to reflect the best of the collections.

Ansel Adams: Pure Photography, on display through May 22, highlights 17 prints from the museum’s collections and two promised gifts, focusing on pre-1932 photographs Adams made before he was an internationally known artist. Organized by photography curator Katherine Ware, the exhibition shows Adams’s stylistic shift from pictorialism to his more recognizable modernist flourishes.

On exhibition now is Western Eyes: 20th Century Art Here and Now, exploring regional developments in Modernism, including Indigenous and Mexican movements

Christian Waguespack, curator of 20th century art, assembled the show to represent the types of contemporary art that will be spotlighted at the Vladem. Movements including Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism are all represented, weaving a narrative about the Art Museum’s century-old focus on local artists engaging with broader artistic themes and trends. Featured artists include Rebecca Salsbury James, Raymond Jonson and Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

Anticipating the Vladem Contemporary Museum
Scully says the museum’s careful curation of these and other 20th century collections presages the Vladem’s big summer opening, which has several exciting projects still in need of funding. For example:

• 2022 Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Living Treasure honoree Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti) is devising a video installation for the opening. “At Vladem, we will be working
increasingly with technology,” Scully says, “as we have easier access to power technology there.” Funding for speakers and other technology is needed for the project.
• Museum curators are heading up another unique Vladem funding opportunity—a window-box program for public art in collaboration with the Santa Fe nonprofit Vital Spaces.
• Private gifts are also needed to fund the Vladem’s first year of public programs, including hosting dynamic speakers and public events.
• Finally, private gifts are needed for an artist-in-residence program at the Vladem slated to begin in 2023. The initiative reaffirms the New Mexico Museum of Art’s original mission upon opening in 1917: to provide work space for contemporary artists.

To support the New Mexico Museum of Art and Vladem Contemporary, contact Kristin Graham at


This article is from Member News March 2022.

Image by Fritz Scholder, Snake Dancer, 1967. Oil on board. Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Gift of Mr. John B.L. Goodwin. © Fritz Scholder Estate. Photo by Blair Clark.