New Mexico Museum of Art

State Historic Preservation Office approves final design of New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary

December 11, 2019

Daniel Zillmann

(Santa Fe, NM) Following a recent review of the design for the New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the architectural team presented a final design that, in the words of lead architect Devendra Contractor “enhances the overall aesthetic and functionality of Vladem Contemporary” and preserves the historic integrity of the surrounding area. The SHPO review was state-mandated under the New Mexico Cultural Properties Act. 

Now that the final design has been approved by SHPO, the architectural team of DNCA and StudioGP is completing the construction drawings while the state prepares for the procurement process to select a construction firm. The project is on track for an early 2020 groundbreaking and grand opening in 2021.

”We are very excited about the possibilities this new building offers to exhibit world class post-war and contemporary art while expanding our ability to present educational programs. The New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary is one step closer to being a reality.” - Michelle Gallagher Roberts, Acting Executive Director, New Mexico Museum of Art

“In October, the Historic Preservation Division (HPD) concluded its review of the proposed Vladem Contemporary conducted under the New Mexico Cultural Properties Act with reference to the National Historic Preservation Act. In this particular case, HPD’s charge was complicated by several factors, all of which are noted in the official report submitted to the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). In brief, our first objective was to determine whether the proposed building would adversely impact the broader Santa Fe Historic District. It did not. But we did find other visual impacts to three significant buildings within the district, including the Santa Fe Depot and two other historic buildings. After submitting our findings to DCA the department responded by scheduling a series of meetings with the architectural team to discuss some changes. The resulting conversations were robust and led to a revised building design that took into account HPD’s primary concern about material and scale. Ultimately, HPD agreed that the revised design assumed several new building techniques that would minimize impacts to the nearby historic resources.” - Jeff Pappas, PhD, State Historic Preservation Officer

“This revised design for Vladem Contemporary has evolved through conversations with the State Historic Preservation Office and discussions during public presentations. The aesthetic for the building continues to represent the programmatic intent of a contemporary art museum while responding to a load-bearing masonry vernacular. The design of the original territorial style warehouse is honored through the contrasting design and concrete finishes of the contemporary addition. The glazed openings of the addition have been reduced by half, and the remaining metal scrim is treated as a sculptural element at the North and South ends of the building. The civic open spaces and plazas around the building have been expanded to enhance the legibility of the historic Railway Depot while providing a point of arrival for visitors using the Rail Runner. The design team is pleased by this redesign, which will be a stunning addition to the City and the State.” - Devendra Contractor, Principal, DNCA Architects

Vladem Contemporary

The New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary physically and ideologically brings the museum into dialogue with the cultural scene in the Santa Fe Railyard district. Moving beyond the restrictions of the intimately-scaled galleries of the Museum’s historic building into a large and flexible exhibition space opens up the possibility for large-scale installations, multi-media projects, and performance-based works that are central to 21st century artistic practice.

Vladem Contemporary will allow the Museum to increase the impact of exhibitions and programs that are currently being presented. The new galleries will be a showcase for the study and exhibition of international, national, and local post-war and contemporary art. The new space will also allow the Museum to exhibit contemporary works of art without having to cut back on the exhibition of its excellent early 20th century collection.

Among the main motivating factors in creating a new contemporary art venue was the need for dedicated educational spaces, which the Museum’s 100-year-old facility on the Plaza lacks. Vladem Contemporary will have a large dedicated educational space where artmaking, classes, hands-on activities, and performance-based arts can take place. Having dedicated education spaces will enable the Museum to provide a new kind of drop-in visitor experience that makes space for and invites visitor creativity, developing a continuum from the visual experience of art in the galleries to the visceral experience of creating in the museum education rooms.

As the only museum in Santa Fe to collect contemporary art, it is imperative the Museum have the space to continue to grow the collection and to acquire important post-war and contemporary artwork. Currently, the Museum is near capacity throughout its existing storage space. Vladem Contemporary will provide quality spaces to properly store, photograph, and document the collection. In addition, Vladem Contemporary will allow the Museum to expand the ability to make its collections available to researchers and members of the public with its new study center. Students and researchers will encounter a convenient and accessible space to have an intimate experience with artworks under the care and supervision of museum staff.

Retirement of Mural

The mural currently located on the side of the building at 404 Montezuma Street was painted in 1990. The paint was applied directly to the surface of the underlying stucco and over an older mural. In an effort to fully research all possible solutions, the Department of Cultural Affairs had two conservators examine the mural to determine its condition and possible remediation paths. The mural was determined to be unstable with extensive cracking and numerous areas of instability with probable continued loss. No treatment is currently possible that can fully address the integrity of either the original image or the artist’s aesthetic intent. Many public art programs consider murals to be temporary with a lifespan of approximately 10-20 years. The mural has been digitally photographed for future archival purposes.

Centennial Campaign

The $12.5 million Centennial Campaign, spearheaded by the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, has reached $12.15 million in gifts and pledges from more than 700 donors. Its successful completion ensures that the New Mexico Museum of Art will operate at a level in line with standards expected of top art institutions today. Vladem Contemporary will feature contemporary exhibitions and expand the Museum’s capacity as a second location within a single, high-functioning institution.

Re-positioned and strengthened, the Museum of Art will stage broader, more comprehensive exhibitions, elevating its reputation and visibility to a national and international level. Other improvements include amenities for artists in residence, bolder education and outreach programs, and lively public spaces. The Museum of Art will also continue building its collection of historic and contemporary art.

About the New Mexico Museum of Art: 

Founded in 1917 as the Art Gallery of the Museum of New Mexico, the New Mexico Museum of Art has been presenting innovative arts programming in downtown Santa Fe for more than a century. At its founding, the museum collected and exhibited artworks by noted artists from New Mexico and elsewhere. This tradition continues today with a wide array of exhibitions and a significant collection featuring work from the world’s leading artists. Today, as at its founding, the Museum of Art strives to bring the art of New Mexico to the world and the art of the world to New Mexico. Museum exhibitions and programs are supported by donors to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and its Director’s Leadership Fund and Exhibitions Development Fund.

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs is New Mexico’s cultural steward and is charged with preserving and showcasing the state’s cultural riches. With its eight museums, eight historic sites, arts, archaeology, historic preservation and library programs, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs is one of the largest and most diverse state cultural agencies in the nation. Together, the facilities, programs, and services of the Department support a $5.6 billion cultural industry in New Mexico.

Events, news releases, and images about activities at the New Mexico Museum of Art and other divisions of the Department of Cultural Affairs can be accessed at    

Related Photos

Southwest View, New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary
Northeast View, New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary
Southeast View, New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary

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