ART Santa Fe: From 1995 to 2014 - July 7, 2014

Celebrating 14 years, July 10-13

Things changed pretty drastically around Guadalupe and Paseo de Peralta here in Santa Fe nearly 20 years ago, when, in 1995, SITE Santa Fe opened in an old adobe beer warehouse by the railroad tracks. There was no such thing as the  “Railyard Arts District.” The area was mostly populated by prairie dogs and old freight cars. Thanks to Laura Carpenter and others like her, a vision for Santa Fe as an international contemporary-art destination was reaching fruition.

Art fairs were a new idea, too, popping up here and there around the world. It’s hard to believe, but back then people actually sold art out of their brick-and-mortar galleries, largely by sending slides and color photographs through the mail. Yep, snail mail. Still, as always seems to be the case, there were never enough sales, and creative people sought innovative ways to bring contemporary art to the public eye.

The Gramercy International Art Fair was held in 1994 in the Gramercy Hotel with four then-unknown New York dealers; since 1999 it’s been called “The Armory Show” and reportedly sells art to the tune of millions of dollars to thousands of visitors from around the world. Carpenter’s crowd thought, “Why not here in Santa Fe?”  Thus, ART Santa Fe was born in 1995, held in the rooms of La Posada long before it was renovated into the luxury-spa property it is today.  Santa Fe gallerist Charlotte Jackson participated and remembers it fondly as “fun and funky.” Visiting gallery personnel spent the night in their rooms, awoke, made their beds and proceeded to show art everywhere they could without putting holes in the walls. It was oddly disconcerting to enter the small, dark rooms—strangers' bedrooms, as it were—to see art, but it was also exhilarating.

Fast forward nearly 20 years later to 2014, and ART Santa Fe is about to open the doors on its fourteenth event. Originally a biennial affair, it’s gone to yearly—hence the seemingly random number of years. ART Santa Fe is now held in the Santa Fe Community Convention Center and, like many art fairs today, the ambience is somewhat sedate in comparison to earlier days—a reflection of money and success, perhaps? But there’s always room at ART Santa Fe for the avant-garde, and this year it will be provided by Santa Fe’s art collective Meow Wolf, a crew of up-and-comers, among others. Charlotte Jackson, the seasoned director of Art Santa Fe, admits to not having a clue as to what Meow Wolf will be doing to/with/in and around their booth. But this is an installation-savvy bunch, and there’s no doubt it’s going to be highly theatrical with a sort of Baroque Maximalism aesthetic. Love & Peace is also coming to Santa Fe via the Croatian-born artist Ana Tzarev, whose campaign has featured monumental fiberglass flowers in Beijing, Venice during the Biennale, Singapore and Manhattan.

Travel + Leisure called the three major art events occurring in mid-July—SITE Santa Fe’s new biennial, the International Folk Art Market and ART Santa Fe—a perfect “Art Trifecta.” Beginning with ART Santa Fe’s Vernissage (an old term for the night before the opening of an art exposition, when painters were madly applying varnish to their canvases) on Thursday evening, July 10 ($100 and almost sold out: get your tickets from the Lensic), the trifecta continues for 10 days, offering a wide spectrum of art from around the world. Galleries will be exhibiting at Art Santa Fe fromTurkey, Japan and across the Americas. Tickets are just $10, and the event runs from 11am to 6pm, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Those of us who consider ourselves true art geeks won’t miss ART Santa Fe Presents' keynote speaker on Saturday evening. James Meyer, the Associate Curator of Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, will deliver a lecture titled “Children of the Sixties.” Based on his forthcoming book, Return to the Sixties: On the Meaning of the Sixties in Art and Culture, this ought to be a fine review from the point of view of someone who not only was there, but actually remembers the whole thing.

Art Santa Fe, an International Contemporary Art Fair: July 10-13 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center