Vladem Contemporary

New Mexico Museum of Art – Vladem Contemporary
One Museum: Two Locations

In 2014, as the 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. The goal was to ensure that it would continue to be a cultural and community anchor and a generator of social and economic development in Santa Fe and New Mexico. Over the past century we have evolved beyond being repository for objects and into community-oriented spaces for engagement and education. As a result, we are working with our collections more dynamically, and broadening the diversity and reach of our exhibitions. The introspection we have undertaken in the past years has prepared us for our next step, which will be a transformational change for our museum. We envisioned a new space for contemporary art to complement the historic site on the Plaza, effectively creating One Museum: Two Locations which has resulted in the Vladem Contemporary.

Architectural rendering of the Vladem Contemporary.

Architectural Rendering of the New Mexico Museum of Art’s new Vladem Contemporary, South West Perspective from Guadalupe Street. Image Courtesy DNCA + StudioGP

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


At its founding the New Mexico Museum of Art was a revolutionary idea – to build a museum dedicated to the art of the time in the remote Southwestern desert. Long before Santa Fe was known as the arts destination it is today, innovative artists were drawn to the remote outpost. This regional boosterism was generated by the founding of the “Art Galleries of the Museum of New Mexico,” our exhibition program and word of mouth from artists, and arts supporters is what attracted them. This early 20th century impact was great both in terms of cultural production and economic reward. Expansion into a new space and an increased curatorial focus on contemporary and post-war artwork will allow the Museum of Art to move out of the shadow of our initial success, reinvigorate our place in the cultural landscape nationally and broaden our impact for the 21st century.

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 would 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 would once again bring  the New Mexico Museum of Art back to the center of New Mexico’s dynamic creative community. Artists working with the Museum would include regional, nation and international artists, artists to artist engagement, programing that moves beyond objects to includes dialogue, and promoting engagement that is about being spoken with as much as it is about being spoken to will be a central approach towards increasing the museum’s relevance in the community. The new space will allow the Museum to exhibit contemporary works of art without having to cut back on the exhibition of our excellent early 20th century collection.

Exhibition Space at Vladem Contemporary
Galleries 9,969 square feet (89% increase)
Outdoor Spaces 2,815 square feet (30% increase)

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.

Having dedicated education spaces will enable us 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. It will impact school group visits by adding an opportunity for students to create works, including hands on art making in response to their visit. Learning by doing is not just for kids. We plan to design programming for people of all ages to learn about works of art by participating in activities created to accompany art work.

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 in order to properly store, photograph, and document the collection. The new building will provide much needed spaces to prepare artworks for storage and exhibitions as well as an area for curators to layout 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 will allow us to expand our ability 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 be bringing some storage out of the basement and making it more accessible and visible to our visitors. This storage space will have a glass wall making what the Museum does to preserve the collection more evident. This space will have interpretation and a computer kiosk to contextualize what the Museum does behind the scenes and to allow visitors to view artworks not currently on exhibit.

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 1023 cubic feet (206% increase)
Mixed 1046 cubic feet (134% increase)
Textiles 424 cubic feet (187% increase)
Collections Study Room 242 square feet (100% increase)

Centennial Campaign logo

The Museum of New Mexico Foundation – an independent, nonprofit organization that raises money for the state museum and historic site system – is conducting the Centennial Campaign to bring the new project to fruition. The name "Vladem Contemporary" is in honor of the generous $4 million gift from Robert and Ellen Vladem. Supporters of this campaign have the opportunity to purchase a brick for just $250 that will permanently recognize your contribution as well as additional naming opportunities for donations over $1000.