Best Museums in Santa Fe

It’s no wonder Georgia O’Keeffe came to this New Mexico town to paint. The high-desert setting inspires artists. Think of the city as your oyster: Take in the abundance of local works that occupy a surprising variety of spaces. Hop from ceramic studio to folk art museum, and from photography exhibit to cutting-edge gallery. Even the capitol building is filled with artwork.

1606 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
The work exhibited in this progressive and edgy nonprofit space is a far cry from the art in the galleries along Canyon Road. SITE Santa Fe, which opened in 1995, hosts provocative biennials as well as a wealth of multimedia productions and notable international and contemporary art exhibits. After the building’s striking renovation and expansion (by the New York–based design firm SHoP Architects), its dramatic new glass facade sits beneath a triangular front, welcoming visitors inside.
632 Agua Fria St, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
This light-filled adobe space, which opened to the public in late 2017, is dedicated to encaustic art. Encaustic, which means “to burn or heat” in Greek, is the result of mixing colored pigments into heated beeswax and resin before applying to a surface with a brush or tool. Because the wax has body, it can be sculpted into shapes as well as painted and layered onto a canvas. The nonprofit gallery has over 300 encaustic works on display, most of which are for sale (70 percent of each sale goes directly to the artist).


107 W Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
A handsome pueblo revival adobe building with a peaceful garden and courtyard, the New Mexico Museum of Art mounts small, rotating exhibits from its impressive 20,000-piece permanent collection. It includes well-known artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Gustave Baumann, and members of the Taos Society of Artists (Ernest L. Blumenschein, Bert G. Phillips, Joseph H. Sharp), and noted 20th-century Southwest photographers like Ansel Adams. Don’t miss the special exhibits or the free Friday evenings (5–8 p.m.). The adjoining gift shop is a great place to pick up books, postcards, and jewelry.
704 Camino Lejo
Part of Museum Hill, the Wheelwright, founded in 1937 by Mary Cabot Wheelwright, is a small private museum with a stellar collection of pottery, sculpture, baskets, weavings, and historic and contemporary works by Native American artists. The hidden gem remains the lower-level Case Trading Post with a fantastic selection of jewelry, kachina dolls, weavings, and pottery from over 200 Native American artists.
1301 Alta Vista St, Santa Fe, NM 87505, USA
The New Mexico Capitol Art Collection is a surprising find: an extensive art collection focusing on nearly 600 New Mexican and Southwestern artists, housed in the State Capitol Complex. This awesome assemblage incorporates paintings, photography, mixed media, textiles and handcrafted furniture. And, it’s free to the public.
710 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, NM 87505, USA
Spend some time on Museum Hill visiting the Museum of International Folk Art with its awesome Alexander Girard collection, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and its stocked basement trading post of Native American wares, and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Unlike museum gift shops that sell replicas of artworks or mass-produced souvenirs, the museum shops here often carry original works of art for sale, so buying here can make you a collector, too. After all that culture, you’ll be famished, so swing by the Museum Hill Cafe for a light snack.
108 Cathedral Pl, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
There is so much art to see in Santa Fe, it’s endless. Along with artisan markets, small galleries, the Georgia O’Keeffe museum and numerous small shops, we visited the MOCNA. It’s a museum that is connected to the Institute of American Indian Arts and is a very manageable space. There are all sorts and time periods of art and revolving shows. Definitely worth an hour or so if you are in Santa Fe. There is also a great gift/book shop as well. **The artist in the picture above is Keith Braveheart
105 W Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
The entire north side of Santa Fe’s downtown plaza is taken up by the 1610 Palace of the Governors, the oldest continually occupied public building in the United States. Its front adobe facade is completely shaded, and in this “portal,” the Native American Vendors Program has been operating for over six decades. A daily lottery ensures a rotating selection of artisans from the various pueblos throughout New Mexico. Yes, there might be some “finer” pieces available in the chic boutiques elsewhere in Santa Fe, but here, in the shade of a four-century-old adobe building, you can meet the artists and even haggle a bit. Be respectful, though—these are not cheap trinkets made in a sweatshop abroad: The crafts and the jewelry are usually made by the person with whom you’ll be conversing. (An interesting side note: The Palace was taken over in 1680 and occupied by Native Americans during the Pueblo Revolt until 1692, when the Spaniards returned. This is the only government seat in the U.S. to have ever been taken over by Native Americans. It then served as the residence of the governor during the Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. territorial regimes, until 1907. In 1912, New Mexico became a U.S. state. Today, the Palace serves as a museum.)
217 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
Located in downtown Santa Fe, this perfectly sized museum is dedicated to the artistic life of Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) and houses the single largest collection of the artist’s work in the world. Rotating exhibits often include O’Keeffe’s iconic desert landscape paintings alongside lesser-known gems painted in Lake George and Hawaii (where she was commissioned by the Dole pineapple company). Often, notable pieces from established peers and contemporaries like Ansel Adams, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol join hers on the walls.
1800 Upper Canyon Road
The artist Randall Davey (part of the Santa Fe Art Colony) painted and worked at this former studio turned National Audubon Society on Upper Canyon Road. The land is now a preserved wildlife sanctuary (with a vast variety of birds like the goldfinch) with several trails and a cultural, educational and historical center. Take a hike with stellar views and later tour Davey’s home and art studio with various personal effects. Closed in the winter. And, make sure to call ahead for times when the house is open.
1075 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
This Canyon Road gallery housed in a classic adobe structure and founded in 1972, showcases 19th and 20th century American art and those famed Southwestern members of the Taos Society of Artists (founded in 1915) like Victor Higgins, E. Martin Hennings and Ernest Blumenschein. Out back, there’s a lovely sculpture garden flanked by a tranquil pond to rest and meditate.
AFAR Journeys
More From AFAR