Pushing Boundaries: Vladem Contemporary

Construction of the New Mexico Museum of Art’s Vladem Contemporary provides opportunities for the museum and its supporters to give to the community, says the museum’s executive director Mark White.

The spacious new venue in the Santa Fe Railyard will allow for the showing of works both larger and heavier than was previously possible in the galleries of the Museum of Art’s historic 1917 building. Perhaps most importantly, for the first time, contemporary art collectors will be able to donate works to a local collecting institution.

In every way, says White, Vladem Contemporary is “allowing us to push the boundaries of what is exhibited.”

The museum’s collecting mission sets it apart from other local contemporary art venues. White defines contemporary art as being post-1980, “being loosely the art of our time...without drawing any firm lines.” He explains that works collected for exhibition at Vladem Contemporary are part of the Museum of Art’s holdings.

“We are one museum, two locations,” he says. “This also applies to the museum’s collection. There is no distinction between the two sites.”

White says the museum’s contemporary art collection is rooted in its “most notable and substantial gift,” which came from acclaimed writer, curator and activist Lucy Lippard, who lives in Galisteo. The gift includes works by minimalist, conceptual, political and feminist artists, among them Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, Hannah Wilke and Nancy Spero.

“It gave us a meaningful range of contemporary art, expanding our collection’s breadth and depth,” White says.

The generosity of donors will be on full display in the Vladem Contemporary’s inaugural exhibition, Shadow and Light. In addition to works from the Lippard collection, the show will feature items donated by collectors William Miller (Tongue-Cut Sparrow (Inside Outside) by James Drake); David and Susan Hill (Stealth to Bring You Home by Erika Wanenmacher); and Virginia Dwan (Three-part Serial Cube Set by Charles Ross).

While preparing for the inaugural exhibition, White says the museum staff is also working to “further develop the more visionary aspects of our programming, with the goal to make the Vladem Contemporary an outward-looking, community-focused social hub of the Railyard’s northern side.”

Two window projects and an installation on the building’s facade will provide passersby a 24/7 aesthetic experience without having to enter the building. The Video Window project will feature original video by a variety of artists on the building’s north facade. The Window Box, a storefront-like window display, will showcase site-specific installations by emerging New Mexico artists. The latter project is based on the Museum of Art’s well-received Alcove exhibitions (2012–2021), where artists from across New Mexico were exhibited five at a time every five weeks.

Leo Villareal, an internationally renowned Albuquerque-born artist, is creating the facade installation. Villareal explains that the work, an LED light array with “constantly changing frequency, intensity and patterning,” comes from computer-generated code and will “suggest astronomical or celestial forms.”

Collaborative public programming is also being planned with local arts nonprofit Vital Spaces and such Railyard institutions as the Jean Cocteau Cinema, New Mexico School for the Arts and SITE Santa Fe.White says private support is crucial to public programming. Contemporary art collectors Barbara Foshay and Thomas C. Turney underwrote the Window Box, while Foshay is also supporting the Villareal LED light installation. White is still seeking support for the Video Window project.

The museum also has an ever-evolving wish list of new works for collecting and exhibiting at Vladem Contemporary.

“We are particularly interested in continuing to collect works by artists who have spent time or have worked in New Mexico,” says White. “For example, we have prints by Bruce Nauman, but we would like to add a video, sculpture or installation of his. Similarly, we have a number of works on paper and paintings by Larry Bell, but we would very much like to have one of his glass cubes.”



This article and image are from the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s Member News Magazine Fall 2022.

Image: A rendering of Leo Villareal’s outdoor installation, soon to be on view at the New Mexico Museum of Art’s Vladem Contemporary. Courtesy Leo Villareal Studio.