Photography ©Peyton Wright Gallery

Santa Fe’s Venerable Galleries


by Kevin Paul

Santa Fe has long been known as an art mecca. In the mid-nineteenth century, railroad survey crews and census takers were frequently accompanied by artists who would sketch and paint this exotic land and its inhabitants. By the 1880s, artists of renown, such as Joseph Henry Sharp and Frederick Remington, visited the territory seeking inspiration.

It’s been exactly one hundred years since Will Shuster (creator of that beloved fifty-foot-tall effigy known as Zozobra) and Willard Nash arrived in Santa Fe. Once here, they teamed up with Fremont Ellis, Josef Bakos and Walter Mruk to form Los Cincos Pintores, and in 1921 the group held its inaugural exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, now called the New Mexico Museum of Art.

Galleries come and go in this town. None date back as far as the nineteenth century, or even to 1920, but some go back nearly fifty years. Through oil booms and busts, red-hot real estate prices and viral plagues, there remains a handful of venerable and resilient galleries that have thrived. They have laid the groundwork of reputation, of carefully nurtured relationships over decades, and of mutual trust and respect that enable them to not only survive but also to flourish.

“This will change the art business forever,” gallery director Maria Hajic says, but she is confident about the future of Gerald Peters Gallery. “We are determined to survive.”

Gerald Peters Gallery and Peters Projects

Gerald Peters opened his gallery in 1972. It features a smart mix of high-quality art, classic as well as modern Western. Works that examine Western themes through a twenty-first-century lens can be found in the original gallery space, while challenging works by contemporary artists are housed in a separate facility called Peters Projects.

Gallery director Maria Hajic attributes their success and longevity to the quality of the art. With a national reputation and a branch of the gallery in New York, it’s difficult to argue. The breadth and depth of the gallery’s offerings are impressive, and the collection includes well-known living artists, such as Jun Kaneko, Mike Glier and Jamie Porter Lara.

Recent months, of course, have not been without challenges. Hajic takes pride in her programming, but she has had to cancel, postpone or move online most of the exhibitions and events she had planned for this year. Like most galleries, they have had to invest in their online presence. They just unveiled a redesigned website that is streamlined and easier to navigate.

Hajic sees the next few months as murky and unpredictable, and expects many smaller galleries to close. “This will change the art business forever,” she says, but she is confident about the future of Gerald Peters Gallery. “We are determined to survive.”

Gerald Peters Gallery and Peters Projects
1005 Paseo de Peralta
By Appointment Only
(505) 954-5700

An interior view of the Gerald Peters Gallery
Gerald Peters Gallery
The storefront of Gerald Peters Gallery
The storefront of Gerald Peters Gallery

Nedra Matteucci Galleries

The gallery’s roots can be traced back to Fenn Galleries, established in 1972 by Forrest Fenn, creator of the recently solved treasure hunt bearing his name. Nedra Matteucci acquired the gallery in 1988, and under her guidance it has evolved to specialize in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American art, including works by the Taos Society of Artists, artists of the American West. The gallery presents one exhibition per year, and this summer’s focus is the work of renowned landscape painter Wilson Hurley.

Gallery director Dustin Belyeu attributes their longevity to having “the right connection to New Mexico’s history, with art at the forefront.” He says the gallery continues to concentrate on “providing the right feel, so open and welcoming to all who want to learn about art.” The gallery and its staff are happy to educate visitors who aren’t necessarily buyers, but who simply want to see the gallery and its beautiful sculpture garden, an oasis that features a charming, tree-lined waterfall and a pond. In this idyllic setting, the gallery displays works by some of their contemporary sculptors, including Dan Ostermiller, Michael Naranjo and the late Glenna Goodacre.

Because of the quarantine, Nedra Matteucci Galleries, like other galleries, has strengthened its online presence. To keep in touch with collectors, they use social media posts, and their website features a virtual video tour of the gallery and the sculpture garden.

Belyeu is hopeful for the near future. “People still need art for their walls,” he says.

Nedra Matteucci Galleries
1075 Paseo de Peralta
Monday–Saturday, 9am–5pm
(505) 982-4631

A pastel painting of a fall mountain scape
Sheldon Parsons (1866-1943) “Untitled” (Adobe by a Stream), oil on board, 15.5 x 19.5 inches at Nedra Matteucci Galleries
Flowers and ristras hung on a New Mexico portal
Zaplin Lampert Gallery

Zaplin Lampert Gallery

Richard Lampert’s gallery has been in business for 33 years. He and boyhood friend, Mark Zaplin (1952-2014), got their start in the early 1970s when they found a trove of photographs by a famed photographer of Native America, Edward S. Curtis, in the basement of a Boston bookstore. They scraped together enough money to buy it. They headed west, and in 1977 they settled in Santa Fe. After ten years traveling the country as private art dealers, they opened Zaplin Lampert Gallery at its present location on Canyon Road.

The gallery is one of the premier destinations for classic art of the American West, including works by artists of the Taos Society of Artists and the Santa Fe Art Colony. It is also a premier source for works by the beloved printmaker Gustave Baumann. The gallery’s beautiful grounds feature works by Native sculptor Allan Houser.

Asked to what he attributes the gallery’s longevity, Lampert says, “I think it’s because we truly represent the niche we have chosen: Western art, and specifically the art of New Mexico. This is art that has stood the test of time. It is consistently appealing in its aesthetic and historic importance.”

Lampert is confident about the near future. “Like a classic painting or book or building, once great, always great. Part of Santa Fe’s greatness is its uniqueness. That’s not going away.”

Zaplin Lampert Gallery
651 Canyon Road
By Appointment Only
(505) 982-6100

Morning Star Gallery

Morning Star Gallery, which opened in 1984, is known as a leading dealer of antique Native American art. The gallery concentrates mainly on the work of Southwest and Plains Indians. Asked about their longevity, gallery director Henry “Chick” Monahan says, “We try our best to focus on quality and authenticity.”

Monahan sees great value in educating his clientele. While the gallery was closed during the spring quarantine, he utilized the gallery website to offer the “Stay at Home Challenge,” a partially guided, independent study course that focused on specific genres of work, such as contemporary ledger drawings and pipe bags. Monahan acted as moderator and answered questions as needed.

The gallery re-opened as soon as the governor’s guidelines allowed it. Since then, Monahan has seen a healthy stream of out-of-state visitors from Texas, Colorado, Arizona and California.

In the absence of Indian Market, normally Santa Fe’s premier event for Native American, Morningstar Gallery will participate in Santa Fe – August 2020 Native and Tribal Art Walk & Sale. Organized by the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association (ATADA), the five-day walk and sale features a walking tour of select galleries that offer historic Native and tribal art. Monahan plans to continue the gallery’s tradition of offering a single exhibition that spans the summer season. This year’s exhibition will focus on the best works from all genres.

Morning Star Gallery
513 Canyon Road
Monday–Saturday, 9am–5pm
(505) 982-8187

The storefront of Ventana Fine Art
Ventana Fine Art

Ventana Fine Art

Ventana Fine Art is housed in a former schoolhouse, the distinctive red-brick building at the corner of Canyon Road and Garcia Street.  Connie Axton and her staff offer work by stalwart Santa Fe artists such as John Nieto, Mary Silverwood and John Axton. The gallery also features two beautiful sculpture gardens.

Though the gallery has reopened, owner Connie Axton has turned to social media to help bring their art to the world. In lieu of traditional opening receptions, they host theirs live on Facebook. With one camera trained on the work in the gallery, another on the artist in their studios and a moderator managing the event, her team has become quite good at it, and the response has been very positive.

Axton attributes her gallery’s longevity to her team’s hard work and determination. “I’m proud of our associates and the specialties they bring to the table,” she says. “We’re always trying new things. We work hard, and we give no excuses. We value our integrity and our professionalism.” Axton adds, “We’re grateful to our artists and our collectors. They know us and we know them.”

With regard to the near future, Axton says, “We won’t get out of this for a couple of years. We’ll just keep putting our best foot forward.”

Ventana Fine Art
400 Canyon Road
Monday–Saturday, 9:30am–5pm
Sunday, 10am–4pm
(505) 983-8815

Peyton Wright Gallery

“Relationships over profit.” That’s what John Schaefer attributes the gallery’s longevity to. “Whether it’s clients or partners, it’s about the relationship. The money takes care of itself, while relationships merit enduring attention.”

Schaefer opened his first Santa Fe gallery downtown on Nussbaum Street, and in 1998 he moved it to its present location in the historic Spiegelberg House on East Palace Avenue. His broad, eclectic collection includes twentieth-century modern, Spanish Colonial, historic New Mexican and pre-Columbian works.

The gallery will participate in the Santa Fe – August 2020 Native and Tribal Art Walk and Sale. In October Peyton Wright Publishing will unveil its first book, Mayan Ruins Revisited: In the Footsteps of Teobert Maler, a collection of photographs of Mayan ruins by William Frej. The book release will be accompanied by an exhibition, a lecture and a book signing.

Schaefer is optimistic about the near future of art in Santa Fe. “Going forward, I see new paradigms emerging. The visual experience will remain important insofar as the physical realization of the art, but I sense we will see a proliferation of smaller, more focused viewing experiences.” He continues, “There will be more individualization in the form of smaller, specialized, enthusiastic, compartmentalized galleries that express more freedom, more exploration, more creativity. I see it as more elegant and practical, a necessity of our times.”

Peyton Wright Gallery
237 E. Palace Ave.
Monday–Saturday, 9:30am–4pm
(505) 989-9888

Kevin Paul

Kevin Paul is a multimedia artist with a penchant for running trails. He is a long-time resident of Albuquerque’s South Valley, where he and his wife, Kayla, watch migrating birds and tend their garden and orchard. He has spent many years in and around the Santa Fe art scene.


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