Grand Opening of the New Mexico Museum of Art’s Vladem Contemporary

Vladem Contemporary Grand Opening Weekend

September 23-24, 2023 - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Free Admission for the Entire Family

It is with immense pleasure that I welcome you to New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary.

This new space for contemporary art in New Mexico has been a long time in the making and bears the fruit of many laborers. The vision for Vladem Contemporary is to serve as a vibrant cultural resource for New Mexicans and as a national and international destination for contemporary art.

With this new venue, New Mexico Museum of Art affirms its commitment to nurture contemporary art and artists, to engage with communities, and to celebrate the creative process within
the state.

As we usher in a new era at New Mexico Museum of Art we hope you see Vladem Contemporary as your museum: a space to connect, to learn, and to inspire your own imaginative ideas.

With deep gratitude,
Dr. Mark White
Executive Director of New Mexico Museum of Art


Excerpt from A New Frame for New Mexican Art

What does it mean for a piece of art to be New Mexican? Does it have to be created in the state? Or made by an artist who was born, or spent significant time, in New Mexico? Could it be produced somewhere far away by someone who never set foot within the state’s borders, but qualify because the subject matter is a person or place or idea connected to its centuries of history?

That is an essential question for curators at Vladem Contemporary, the satellite space for recent work that New Mexico Museum of Art will open on September 23, 2023. It will use all of those criteria to fulfill the institution’s ambitious mission of showing “the art of New Mexico to the world,” as Executive Director Dr. Mark A. White puts it. But how that answer is refined over time will define the institution and how visitors and residents alike connect to it; and how everyone from critics to casual art fans come to regard the stature of New Mexico’s art—or at least its contemporary art, which would include, under another impossible-to- pinpoint term, anything made in the later part of the twentieth century and right up to the current moment.

It helps that Vladem Contemporary, which will bring nearly 10,000 square feet of new indoor exhibition space to Santa Fe’s Railyard Arts District, gives New Mexico Museum of Art plenty of room to work through the concept. Curators will have the opportunity to program art in the 2,800 square feet of courtyard, roof deck, and entryway space that are part of the project.

Vladem Contemporary stands in contrast to the main headquarters of New Mexico Museum of Art, a Pueblo Revival-style structure that opened forbusinessonthePlazabackin1917.Thatbuilding,withitsstuccowalls and protruding vigas, was designed by Isaac Hamilton Rapp and William Mason Rapp to resemble the adobe churches that have long existed throughout the region.

The original museum’s galleries, a series of modest spaces with relatively low ceilings, divided between multiple levels, were made for an era when two-dimensional works, like paintings, dominated what was shown in museums. The art and the ornate, detailed architecture are inseparable.

By comparison, Vladem Contemporary’s exhibition rooms are open and free-flowing, with high ceilings and walls to accommodate art that is in vogue today, such as multi-media, three-dimensional installations that can take any shape, or video art that can be projected on walls. It is more of what curators call a “white cube.” A space that retreats into the background and “lets the work speak for itself as a singular piece that doesn’t necessarily exist within or rely upon the context of the building for its success,” according to Assistant Curator Katie C. Doyle.

The new museum’s opening exhibition, Shadow and Light, makes the most of that space, and takes an early stand toward defining what makes a piece New Mexican. The group show is a wide survey that takes a step back in time, starting with work from artists affiliated with the Transcendental Painting Group, which formed in 1938 and includes names like Emil Bisttram and Florence Miller Pierce, who integrated an ethereal spirituality into their portraits and landscape paintings.

The exhibition goes on to trace how the natural light of New Mexico may have influenced artists that followed, and includes a slew of well-known names, including Agnes Martin, Larry Bell, Judy Chicago, Ron Cooper, Nancy Holt, and Charles Ross, all of whom lived, worked, or traveled at least part-time in New Mexico.

Other artists, who are more recently entering the prime of their careers, round out the offering, including ceramist Virgil Ortiz and installation artist Leo Villareal.

What brings the past and present together, according to the museum, is a shared desire among the artists to “capture and express more than mere naturalistic representation in their artwork”—a quality of contemporary art in general, but one that is affiliated particularly with New Mexico.

Light is essential to that idea, and it has been central to the output of the artists featured—from Bell’s pieces made of glass, to Ross’s work made entirely of refracted light, to Villareal’s installations constructed from thousands of LED nodes that flash on and off, creating a set of infinitely changing patterns.

In a sense, Vladem Contemporary takes New Mexico Museum of Art back to its roots. As White points out, founding Museum of New Mexico Director Edgar Lee Hewett conceived the original place as a contemporary art museum. It showed and collected objects from its own era and gave studio space to artists of its day to create new work, something that drew talented painters and sculptors to New Mexico and contributed to its reputation as an art haven.

It was a novel approach to how a museum could operate, though over time, that art transitioned from cutting-edge to historic. Because the museum had collected so many works from the first part of the twentieth century, that era became the focus of its public displays.

“As we became an older institution, we began to feel beholden to our history and the exhibition of that history, and it became increasingly difficult to continue to work with contemporary artists,” White says. “We just didn’t have the space.”

Like its predecessor in the early years, Vladem Contemporary will endeavor to support artists who are working in the present. Vladem Contemporary will bring in five artists a year for residencies of two weeks or longer. They will work in specially designed studio spaces that have been incorporated within the building. The residencies will involve projects done in collaboration with local community groups and schools.

“We are purposely looking to bring in artists who have international reputations, as well as national, regional, and local reputations,” says White. “That will give us the opportunity to really think about luring people here, very much as Hewett did back in the early part of the twentieth century.”

We invite you to read the full article from the Fall 2023 issue of El Palacio at


Inaugural Exhibition
Shadow and Light 

The inaugural exhibition of Vladem Contemporary, Shadow and Light (September 23, 2023–April 28, 2024) uses the famed southwestern light as a means to explore both the physical and metaphorical contrasts between light and darkness. The exhibition will offer an examination of how twentieth century artists use light and shadow as both physical media and an exploration of conceptual ideas. Shadow and Light will be showcased in Vladem Contemporary’s main gallery on the first floor and the upstairs gallery.

Featured artists include:

Larry Bell

Emil Bisttram

Lee Bul

Judy Chicago

Ron Cooper

Constance DeJong

James Drake

Angela Ellsworth

Joe Goode

Harmony Hammond

Nancy Holt

J P 제피 (formerly Jen Pack)

Jennifer Joseph

Yayoi Kusama

Agnes Martin

Florence Miller Pierce

August Muth

Virgil Ortiz

Helen Pashgian

Charles Ross

Leo Villareal

Erika Wanenmacher

Susan York

Norman Zammitt


New Mexico Museum of Art, Vladem Contemporary


Vladem Contemporary completes the vision of New Mexico Museum of Art to provide a new home for its contemporary art collections and exhibitions, as well as educational spaces.

The project is comprised of a 18,000 square-foot addition that bridges over an existing 20,000 square foot brick and steel warehouse from 1936. The existing building is oriented to the railroad tracks and aligned with the city streets.

As a contemporary art museum, the building is designed around the concepts of flexibility, permeability, and community amenity, to provide a place for gathering, celebration, and cultural exchange. The building is both a vessel for art as well as a place for connection. The structure of the new building bridges over the historic warehouse to create a covered entry breezeway and a large roof deck providing spectacular eastward views to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

There are two main entrances to Vladem Contemporary: one facing toward Santa Fe’s downtown and the original location of New Mexico Museum of Art, and the other facing the Railyard and the Rail Runner Depot which connects Santa Fe to the rest of New Mexico. The two entrances are joined by a large central lobby—an enclosed urban street allows visitors to pass through the building and gain glimpses of art at the ground level gallery without paying for admission.


Leo Villareal


New Mexico Museum of Art commissioned artist Leo Villareal (American, b. 1967) to create a digital light installation entitled Astral Array on the underside of the breezeway that connects the museum store with the south entrance of Vladem Contemporary. Originally from Albuquerque, Villareal has earned an international reputation for major installations in London on the bridges of the river Thames and the San Francisco Bay Bridge. His works use LEDs to create mathematically derived patterns often suggestive of celestial phenomena, a fitting connection to the night sky that is easily visible in New Mexico.

The project recognizes the significance of Leo Villareal’s work, a native New Mexican who has achieved international recognition for his innovative approach to light, technology, and public art. It places Santa Fe and Vladem Contemporary among an impressive list of locations worldwide that offer such a unique aesthetic experience.


Artist-In-Residence Program

The Artist-in-residence Program offers contemporary artists a chance to engage deeply with the museum and local community by inviting them to work and create art in a dedicated studio space. The first two artists are Oswaldo Maciá and Mokha Laget. Maciá is creating a sound sculpture titled El Cruce based on audio of migrating animals and insects for the building’s Ashlyn Perry Studio Terrace. These artists will have full-time access to a purpose-built studio on the second floor. They will be able to produce work
on-site and participate in programs for museum audiences and the community at large. Approximately five artists will participate annually.


Judy Chicago’s Kitty City

An Augmented Reality Experience

New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary has partnered with artist Judy Chicago to create an animated, augmented reality experience around her body of work, collectively known as Kitty City.

In 2005, Chicago began memorializing her former pet cats as ceramic sculptures. New Mexico Museum of Art will use the sculptures as models for animated cats that will inhabit Vladem Contemporary through an augmented reality application. The Virtual Reality animations have been developed by RelevantVR, based in Dallas, Texas.


Window Box Project

Located next to the northern entrance of the museum in the Barbara Foshay and Thomas C. Turney Alcove, the Window Box Project features new commissions by emerging New Mexican artists. This changing installation serves as an engaging way to experience museum-quality art from outside the museum, while encouraging community members and visitors to explore its offerings within. Artists can reimagine the space in a way that speaks to the community. They can also work collaboratively with underserved members of the community to create a new installation. The Window Box Project provides the Santa Fe community with 24/7 access to art since it is always visible for viewers to enjoy.

In collaboration with thea collective Vital Spaces, New Mexico Museum of Art is pleased to launch the Window Box Project with inaugural artist Cristina González. Next, Morgan Barnard and Ileana Alarcon have been selected by the museum’s curatorial team to continue the representation of emerging artists working in Santa Fe during the museum’s inaugural year. Artists living and working throughout the state of New Mexico will be featured in following years.


Collection Storage

Vladem Contemporary adds approximately 4,100 square
feet of state-of-the-art collection storage, including cold storage for color photography. This facility allows New Mexico Museum of Art to make collections available to researchers and members of the public through the new study center, which is open by appointment.

On the second floor of the museum, Robert J. Nurock Collections-on-View features visible collection storage that would otherwise be unseen by the public.


Multi-Cultural Mural Reimagined

recreation of the mural Multi-cultural, formerly on the building’s exterior and executed by Gilberto Guzman, Zara Kriegstein, and collaborators, is installed permanently on view in the lobby.

In the early 1990s, Guzman revised Multi-cultural, which had been originally conceived in 1980 as a celebration of the ethnic diversity that created the distinctive cultural landscape of New Mexico. The essential imagery, contributions made by different cultures in the history of New Mexico, remains constant despite differences in style between the 1980, 1993, and 2022 versions. Painted on the east wall of the Halpin State Records Center and Archives, the mural measured 110 x 18 feet and Guzman repainted it in 1993 to repair damage from the elements.

In 2022, Guzman led a team of artists to create a scale reproduction of the mural on view in the lobby of New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary. The current Multi-cultural mural is three panels, 24 x 5 feet, and on display in front of the educational classroom.

A plaque marks where the original mural was located and a QR code will allow viewers to visualize the 1993 version of Multi-cultural on the side of Vladem Contemporary through an augmented reality application on a smart device.


Vladem Contemporary’s Education Center

The Van Mabee Education Center is a 2,300 square foot space offering an array of educational programming. Given the physical constraints of the downtown building, Vladem Contemporary allows the museum to expand its educational offerings to increase outreach, engage deeply with the local community, and hire teaching artists to share their expertise and skills. The exterior of the Van Mabee Education Center features the Fritz Family Digital Window used to display artist videos at various times of the day in adherence to local night sky ordinances.

The Van Mabee Education Center offers:
◗ Hands-on activities following school tours of exhibitions
◗ Monthly family art-making Saturdays
◗ Workshops, including a smartphone photography class aimed at teens
◗ Collaborative school tours with SITE Santa Fe and the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation Art Vault aimed at hosting all 7th and 8th graders in Santa Fe


The First Ten Years, Economic Impact

In the first ten years, New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary will:
◗ Attract more than 60,000 annual visitors
◗ Stimulate a total of $194 million in economic activity
◗ Support 345 jobs
◗ Produce $102 million in income for Santa Fe residents and generate 12.3 million in state and local tax


Spotlight on Robert and Ellen Vladem

In recognition of the centennial anniversary of New Mexico Museum of Art, Robert and Ellen Vladem made a generous lead gift to build what is now Vladem Contemporary. The Vladems were moved to make their generous gift by understanding the importance of establishing an updated, state-of-the-art venue to house and display contemporary works of art, and to draw the interest of collectors who would be inclined to donate or purchase works for the collection into the future.

In addition to their gift for New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem
Contemporary, Ellen and Robert have provided major support for The Santa Fe Opera and have served on numerous boards and as volunteers for various arts organizations, including The Food Depot and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Their philanthropy and community engagement illustrates their commitment to enriching the cultural life of Santa Fe and making a difference in the artistic vitality of this city.

Leadership Team
This endeavor would not have been possible without the leadership of the following individuals. Many thanks to them, and the many others who are not listed.

State of New Mexico
Michelle Lujan Grisham, Governor

New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs
Debra Garcia y Griego, Cabinet Secretary

Michelle Gallagher Roberts, Deputy Cabinet Secretary

Lino Herrera, Facilities Management Bureau

New Mexico Museum of Art
Dr. Mark A. White, Executive Director                                                                                                 Mary Keyshawn, Executive Director (past)

DNCA + Studio GP, Architects

Bradbury Stamm Construction, Contractor

Special thanks to Museum of New Mexico Foundation leadership and staff

Jamie Clements, President/CEO and Kristin Graham, Director of Leadership Giving
Yvonne Montoya and Suzette Sherman, Centennial Campaign Directors


This image and excerpts are from the New Mexico Museum of Art’s Vladem Contemporary Grand Opening Weekend Pamphlet.