Horizons: People & Place in 20th Century New Mexican Art celebrates this museum’s role as a place where traditional and innovative arts practices from diverse cultures intersect to create something unique to the region. Contemporary since the beginning, the New Mexico Museum of Art has been an advocate of progressive arts since opening its doors one hundred years ago. Throughout its first century, the Museum has been at the center of significant creative crossroads. New Mexican art reflects the intersection of modern and traditional styles and values. Varying, often contradictory, cultural points of view not only coexist here but thrive together.
Countless individuals have contributed to the establishment of the museum as we know it today. This institution was the brainchild of archaeologist Edgar Lee Hewett, working closely with modernist painter Robert Henri. Hewett partnered with lawyer and rancher Frank Springer, and artist Kenneth Chapman among many others to create a place in the community through which the fledgling state of New Mexico could take the next step towards forging its unique artistic identity.
In celebration of the New Mexico Museum of Art’s centennial, we examine the museum’s contribution to the development of the arts in New Mexico.
The richness of New Mexican art is rooted in the coming together of styles, cultures, media, and most importantly, people. Museum founder Edgar Lee Hewett envisioned this museum as more than a building or a place for the exhibition of art. The museum’s role as a community center was a vital part of its founding mission. The St. Francis auditorium was built as one of this city’s first major secular gathering places. Community involvement is foundational for the arts in New Mexico and continues to be at the heart of what we do. Many of the works in this gallery were selected through community choice, and reflect current tastes and values.
Community has served as a major theme in the art of the past century, with artists incorporating large celebrations like Zozobra and the Santa Fe Fiestas, as well as more intimate gatherings such as a group of musicians or mourners at a funeral into their compositions. Santa Fe’s historic plaza, an iconic community space, has served as a subject for artists since before Statehood in 1912. Over time, artists interpreted the plaza in vastly different ways, from American Colonial town center, to Wild West outpost, and even a flapper-filled party in the roaring 20s. Artists in New Mexico came together to form their own communities, as was the case with the Modernists. The early Museum served as a gathering place for artists and offered many of them studio spaces..
Horizons: People & Place in 20th Century New Mexican Art focuses on the museum’s collection to celebrate its history as a center for creativity. The artworks in this gallery highlight New Mexico’s distinctive artistic identity.