New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary by DNCA Architects and StudioGP Architects opens soon in Santa Fe

Labor of Love

New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary by DNCA Architects and StudioGP Architects opens soon in Santa Fe

The New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary opened its doors in late September. (Courtesy DNCA Architects)

On September 23, museum officials will celebrate the opening of Vladem Contemporary, a new 15,000-square-foot auxiliary for the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Railyard District. Located at the intersection of Montezuma Avenue and South Guadalupe Street, Vladem Contemporary is a short walk south of the existing New Mexico Museum of Art building. It will permanently host the 106-year-old institution’s contemporary art collection, according to a press release.

Museum officials hired the Santa Fe firm DNCA Architects and StudioGP Architects of Albuquerque for the “ambitious adaptive reuse” of the former Joseph F. Halpin New Mexico State Records Center and Archives. Vladem Contemporary offers 10,000 square feet of new gallery space and 2,800 square feet of outdoor space for art shows and public gatherings. The new building bridges over an existing 20,000-square-foot brick and steel warehouse from the 1930s and is oriented to the grid of nearby railroad tracks and surrounding city streets.

According to the architects, Vladem Contemporary represents “years of labor and love” for the small firm in Santa Fe. “Moving beyond the restrictions of the intimately scaled galleries of our historic building into a large and flexible exhibition space opens up the possibility for large-scale installations, multi-media projects, and even performance-based works that are central to 21st century artistic practice,” a press release stated. 

The facade facing Montezuma Avenue is corrugated. (Courtesy DNCA Architects)

The facade facing Montezuma Avenue is corrugated metal while the rest of the structure is coated in warm earth tones to mimic vernacular architecture from the area. Within the new building will be the Vladem Contemporary Education Center, 2,300 square feet for educational programming. Another 4,100 square feet will be state-of-the-art collection storage, including cold storage for color photography. Vladem Contemporary will also accommodate space for artist residencies.

New Mexico artists Oswaldo Maciá and Mokha Laget are the first artists-in-residence at Vladem Contemporary. Over the next several months, both will spend time working in the second-floor studio on projects for the museum and community.

While the galleries will display year-long exhibitions, at the museum’s northern entrance the Window Box Project will present works by emerging New Mexican artists; providing 24/7 access to art for the local community. “This changing installation serves as an engaging way to experience museum-quality art without having to enter the museum while encouraging community members and visitors to explore its offerings within,” the statement continued. The building also features a roof deck with stunning views of the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

“A new physical location for the Museum of Art with flexible interior and exterior space opens up much more than room for the Museum: it opens up possibility for an expanded curatorial program. Increasing our engagement with the art of this time will increase our engagement with the local community while attracting artists and audiences, and will once again bring the New Mexico Museum of Art back to the center of New Mexico’s dynamic creative community,” a press release stated.

Vladem Contemporary features a new plaza (Courtesy DNCA Architects)

Vladem Contemporary was made possible vis-a-vis a public-private partnership. Philanthropists Robert and Ellen Vladem made the lead gift of $4 million in the museum’s campaign to raise $12.5 million for the new building. The State of New Mexico paid over $6 million for construction as well. The museum anticipates more than 60,000 annual visitors, a total of $194 million in economic activity, and the creation of 345 new jobs. Museum officials note that the new addition will produce $102 million in income for Santa Fe residents and $12.3 million in state and local tax revenue.

DNCA Architects is working on another of other notable cultural projects in New Mexico. These include a 60,000-square-foot building for the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, and an addition to the Albuquerque Museum.

Vladem Contemporary’s inaugural exhibition, Shadow and Light, is open between September 23 and April 28, 2024. It features works by prominent local and international artists like Emil Bisttram, Florence Miller Pierce, Agnes Martin, Leo Villareal, and others.