New Mexico Museum of Art
Vladem Contemporary

Grand Opening 9.23.23

In 2014, as New Mexico Museum of Art approached its one hundredth year, it embarked on a journey to examine its founding vision and to explore future opportunities. Now, the museum is thrilled to complement its historic plaza museum with an expansion to the Santa Fe Railyard District, creating an additional space for contemporary art and new avenues to make art available to everyone.

The Vladem Contemporary is named after Robert and Ellen Vladem. The couple made the lead gift of $4 million in the $12.5 million campaign. The funds to create the Vladem Contemporary were raised through a private-public partnership. The State of New Mexico contributed over $6 million towards the construction. 

The architectural team DNCA + StudioGP of Albuquerque, N.M., were selected to design the conversion of the former Halpin building. 


The Vladem Contemporary physically and ideologically brings the Museum of Art into dialogue with the cultural scene in the Santa Fe Railyard District. 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. Promoting state-of-the-art ideas and bringing living artists back to the heart of our exhibitions and public programs is entirely in keeping with our institution’s history and necessary for our future. Artists-in-residence and visiting artists will be a key part of this project, engaging with our galleries and the community at large by actively connecting with the region, creating new works and site specific installations, presenting lectures, and collaborating with schools and other institutions. 

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. Museum programming will include regional, national and international artists, as well as artist to artist engagement and community-based dialogue.

Exhibition Space at Vladem Contemporary

Galleries 9,969 square feet (89% increase)
Outdoor Spaces 2,815 square feet (30% increase)

While the light of New Mexico is commonly associated with representational landscape paintings, the West has also nurtured and attracted artists who struggled to capture and express more than mere naturalistic representation in their artwork. Filling two galleries of the newly constructed New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary, the exhibition looks at artworks from the mid-20th century through the present day with eye towards the West and Southwest, and this desire for a visual experience that could convey more than the empirical. Transcendental Painting Group members and acclaimed New Mexico artists Emil Bisttram and Florence Miller Pierce are at the start of an arc that unfolds to reinforce the connection between the work the Museum of Art has always supported and trends in contemporary art practice and art history. In this specific case, connections are drawn between the nonphysical realms the TPG aspired to, the perceptual experience of the light and space movement, physical engagement of early land art, and contemporary projects like the indigenous futurism of Cochiti artist Virgil Ortiz.

The exhibition checklist for Shadow and Light includes works by artists with established regional, national, and international reputations including Larry Bell, Emil Bisttram, Lee Bul, Judy Chicago, Ron Cooper, James Drake, Angela Ellsworth, Gloria Graham, Nancy Holt, Jennifer Joseph, Agnes Martin, Florence Miller Pierce, Virgil Ortiz, J P 제피 (formerly Jen Pack), Helen Pashgian, Charles Ross, Susan York, Leo Villareal, and Erika Wanenmacher.

Educational Programs

Among the main motivating factors in creating a new contemporary art venue was the need for dedicated educational spaces, which our 100-year-old facility on the Plaza lacks. The Vladem Contemporary will have a large dedicated educational space where artmaking, classes, hands-on activities, and even performance-based arts can take place. The Museum of Art currently has no such space. The venue will also have an artist’s studio space which will enable artist-in-residence programs to include educational access for students to artists and their working practice.

For the inaugural year, the Education team has been developing new programing, including enhanced school tours that will allow students to participate in an activity related to the exhibitions during their visit; monthly family art-making sessions; summer photography workshops for teens, and expanded opportunities for studio workshops. 

Having dedicated education spaces will enable us to provide new experiences that invite visitor creativity, developing a connection between the visual experience of art in the galleries to the visceral experience of creating. It will improve school group visits by allowing students and educators to dive deeper into the themes of our exhibitions. Learning by doing is not just for kids. Our current plan provides programming for all ages and skill levels, and our intention is to build on these offerings in the years to come. 

Dedicated Education & Program Spaces at Vladem Contemporary 2,307 square feet (100% increase)

Art Collection Storage

As one of the few museums in Santa Fe to collect a wide range of contemporary art, the Museum must have the space to collect important examples that encompass the full breadth of post-war and contemporary art. Currently, we are at near capacity throughout our existing storage spaces. The Vladem Contemporary will provide quality spaces to properly store, photograph, and document the collection. The new building will provide much needed space to prepare artworks for storage and exhibitions as well as an area for curators to lay out artwork prior to exhibition installation. The collection storage in the Vladem Contemporary will increase our overall storage by 83 percent, allowing the New Mexico Museum of Art to remain a vibrant force well into the future. In addition, the Vladem Contemporary will allow us to make our collections available to researchers and members of the public through the new study center. Students and researchers will have a convenient and accessible space to have an intimate experience with artworks under the care and supervision of museum staff.

One of the most valuable additions is the photography storage vault. This space will be maintained at a lower temperature and humidity than the other storage areas. The lower environmental standards slow down the chemical deterioration often inherent in photographic processes. The cooler storage vault will allow us to maintain the photographs we currently own, as well as those we will acquire, for approximately an additional 200 years beyond their current projected lifespan.

On the second floor of the Vladem Contemporary, the Museum of Art will make it’s collections more accessible through visible storage. This storage space will have a glass wall, making what the Museum does to preserve the collection more evident.

Storage at the Vladem Contemporary

Painting Hanging Storage 16,184 square feet (97.6% increase)
Shelving for framed artwork 2,568 cubic feet (100% increase)
Sculpture 1,313 cubic feet (59% increase)
Works on Paper & Photographs 1,023 cubic feet (206% increase)
Mixed 1,046 cubic feet (134% increase)
Textiles 424 cubic feet (187% increase)
Collections Study Room 242 square feet (100% increase)

Supporting the New Mexico Museum of Art

Your generous support of the museum will help make possible this momentous period in the history of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Our goal is to raise $1.5 million to fund world-class programming at the Vladem Contemporary during its inaugural year, as well as equally compelling and sensational exhibitions at the museum’s 1917 building on Santa Fe’s historic downtown Plaza. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to launch a new era for the New Mexico Museum of Art. We invite your support of the Museum of Art at this transformative moment in time. For more information or to support this project contact Kristin Graham, Director of Leadership Giving, New Mexico Museum of Art, 505.216.1199 or, or visit the Museum of New Mexico Foundation donation page.

The Vladem Contemporary opens September 23, 2023, and we’re offering special Vladem-themed benefits and extra thank you gifts when join or increase your membership level. Learn more here.

Vladem Contemporary Benefits:

  • Free, unlimited admission to the Vladem Contemporary
  • A 10% discount, and a free gift with purchase at the Shop inside the Vladem Contemporary
  •  A Vladem-inspired membership card design and a special designation of Milestone Member to honor your support in this important year
  • Members-only Preview and Grand Opening Celebration to Vladem Contemporary before it opens to the public