Albuquerque is not all about Breaking Bad or great restaurants. This hip city is Santa Fe’s smaller, energetic cousin when it comes to art and culture. From cutting-edge independent galleries to public art museums and university exhibition spaces, this is a curated pick of the top ten contemporary art galleries in Albuquerque.
Arguably the most important independent art gallery in Albuquerque, 516 Arts is also a significant player on the New Mexico art scene. Thanks to many connections and an open-minded approach to creativity, the gallery puts on several thought-provoking exhibitions every year, showcasing diverse media and themes. 516 Arts is a great spot to see museum-quality art in an informal, welcoming setting.
An ardent supporter of the innovative and the experimental, SCA Contemporary represents a carefully curated roster of artists working in diverse mediums, ranging from sculpture and painting to sound and video art. Thanks to this diversity and the gallery’s collaboration with numerous curators, exhibitions have been similarly wide-ranging.
A pristine white space with a strong focus on showcasing contemporary art by emerging and established artists, Richard Levy Gallery has been garnering critical acclaim globally. In addition to producing several quality exhibitions every year, the gallery is also one of the few New Mexico art spaces with past appearances at respected art fairs such as PULSE New York and Art Miami. From the Color Rhythms group show which presented abstract and geometric pieces by American artists to the works of pop art exponent Ed Ruscha, Richard Levy Gallery keeps its finger on the pulse of cutting-edge developments in the art industry.
John Baldessari, National City Image courtesy of Richard Levy Gallery
Harwood Art Center
Established with the distinct aim of catalyzing social change through creativity, the Harwood Art Center has been a valued member of the ABQ arts community for well over 30 years, although the concrete gallery has only been in existence since 1991. It sits in a beautiful Neoclassical building that once housed a girls’ school, yet simultaneously looks to the future with its ambitious program of activities. The artists’ studios and gallery spaces that occupy the center provide insights into the bustling world of local art; Magnum Opus presented the vibrant, colorful etchings of New Mexico artist Ken Frink, while the installation A Second Life examined order and chaos, novelty and regeneration, with scrap wood sculptures by Karl Hofmann. The Harwood Art Center is a great space to discover cutting-edge works by some of the area’s most original artists.
Factory on 5th sits in a low industrial building just around the corner from SCA Contemporary Art. This cutting-edge art space is composed of several artists’ studios, exhibition rooms and a large performance space called Kosmos. The entire complex is an artistic universe of sorts, with student shows, solo exhibitions and various other events taking place in the Factory throughout the year.
Inpost Artspace is part of Albuquerque’s buzzing Outpost Performance Space, and thereby a venue where music, theater and the visual arts meet and react to one another. Inpost’s close curatorial ties to 516 Arts and the Harwood Art Center mean that exhibitions are coordinated by two cultural masterminds, giving the art space a further, dynamic boost. Although most shows feature New Mexico artists, this only serves as a compliment to the local art scene. Exhibits have presented a huge array of themes and media, from Mark Weber’s photographs covering the world of jazz music, to Nina Elder’s paintings exploring the relationship between landscape and architecture. Inpost Artspace makes for a perfect gallery experience prior to enjoying a concert housed in the very same complex.
Griffin & Mandeville is quite a unique space in Albuquerque and indeed New Mexico, as it confidently combines contemporary art with yoga. Exhibitions usually focus on painting and two-dimensional art, but some of the most interesting and original shows have featured giant wool installations, as in Warmth by J. A. Zona, and textured, mixed-media paintings, such as those by self-taught artist Sue Hanauer. Offering wall space to a mix of emerging and established artists, the gallery is perhaps more welcoming than it is dynamic, but it certainly offers a great way to enjoy the benefits of art while stretching and relaxing to the rhythms of yoga.
The museum attached to the National Hispanic Cultural Center is a thriving hub for artists from Latin America, as well as those with Hispanic or Latino roots. A close connection to this heritage keeps the center’s collection and exhibitions coherent while allowing them to demonstrate immense creativity, crafted with diverse mediums and techniques. Texas-born sculptor Luis Jiménez, graffiti artist Chaz Bojórquez, as well as Patssi Valdez, co-founder and member of art collective Asco, all have a place in the museum’s permanent collection. Frequent rotating exhibitions are accompanied by a busy program of other events which aim to reflect and strengthen the area’s cultural bonds to Latin America.
The non-profit University Of New Mexico Art Museum benefits from its educational background. It showcases some of the finest examples of modern American and international art. Recent exhibitions, held across the museum’s several galleries, have included works by pop art exponent Andy Warhol, Wyoming-born abstract artist Jackson Pollock, and British photographer Martin Parr. The museum’s confident curation is complimented by a schedule of lectures by leading academics in the field of art, several insightful talks organised every season, and an annual graduate show.
Housed in an edgy, Modernist building in the heart of the city center, the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History has displayed high quality art for almost half a century. With a permanent collection of over 7,000 items mainly from the Southwest, the museum also boasts a must-visit sculpture garden of 60 pieces and a busy program of rotating exhibitions. These shows are often organized with a community focus; for example, Latino art crossed paths with works by local creatives – and even high school pupils – in the Focus on Youth show, which featured photographs by these aspiring artists. However, the museum’s curatorial team also brings in great examples of international art such as Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s awe-inspiring installation work, whilst a show on Japanese decorative arts attested to the institution’s open-minded approach to art.