Published: August 31, 2021
Review and Photos by Walt Borton
SANTA FE, N.M. – The Santa Fe Gallery Walk & Sale was originally conceived in the spring of 2020 by five Santa Fe specialists in antique Native American art. As New Mexico’s governor tightened health regulations to battle Covid, Brant Mackley, Julie Kokin Miller, Ted Trotta and Anna Bono, and James Compton realized that the major August shows in which they normally showed could not happen.
At that moment, small gatherings in intimate settings were still permitted, so they envisioned a gallery walk. They recruited an eclectic group of dealers from Santa Fe and beyond to share galleries in a format roughly modeled after Parcours des Mondes on Paris’ Rive Gauche or the Brussels Non-European Art Fair on the Petit Sablon.
When New Mexico went into a complete commercial lockdown with only a handful of essential retailers remaining open, the organizers, like a handful of other show producers around the world, scrambled to reshape their walk as an online event, dubbing it Santa Fe Virtual. The virtual show did well that August, drawing new and younger buyers from far afield and allaying some participants’ fears that their collectors would not shop online.
With the lockdown lifted by late spring 2021, the organizers reprised their Gallery Walk concept, retaining the Virtual Santa Fe branding and online component.
By August 2021, 44 galleries had signed on. Twenty-two participated in the Gallery Walk. Of those, three took part “by appointment only,” and three were from outside Santa Fe. Eighteen did both the walk and virtual show and a total of 40 were online for Santa Fe Virtual’s five-day run.
Art Walk participants posted tasteful window decals, and visitors were greeted with cleverly designed mats welcoming them to “Santa Fe Virtual Walkabout Exhibitors.”
Their cooperative advertising and online promotion resulted in shops noticeably busier than on a routine Santa Fe summer day.
The real upside was for visitors who got to enjoy a gallery’s entire inventory and the chance for the rare one-on-one with the fascinating experts in their fields, seldom possible on busy show floors.
The Walkabout’s map listed galleries alphabetically, but they were best explored by neighborhood, beginning with James Compton’s on tiny Burro Alley near Santa Fe’s Plaza. As visitors popped in, Compton answered questions about his widely varied displays of weavings, pottery, sculpture and jewelry, taking obvious delight with the traffic after a very quiet summer.
Just around the corner, Sorrel Sky Gallery balanced contemporary works by Native artists with equally powerful non-Native work from the Southwestern palette. On a traditional drum created by Ray Gallegos (Cochiti) sat a bronze of near-life-sized ducklings, “Huddled Up,” by Gerald Balciar.
Next door, Manitou Gallery also offered a widely diverse selection of contemporary Southwestern painters, sculptors and jewelers. Vic Payne’s monumental cattle-drive bronze, “The Long Trail Home,” with a longhorn steer at its head dominated a whole gallery. As cowboys drove herds north from Texas to railheads for shipment East, occasionally a steer would choose to lead and might be spared to lead again. Best known “lead longhorn” was Charles Goodnight’s “Old Blue,” who led more than 10,000 head of cattle from Texas to Dodge City. After eight seasons. “Old Blue” retired to roam the prairie and inspire Vic Payne.
Across the street, Sherwood’s Spirit of America showed antique Native American objects in a restrained and elegant setting. There, organizer Julie Miller expressed her hope that the Walkabout concept would become a permanent part of August in Santa Fe.
Near the Santa Fe Plaza on San Francisco Street, Kumi Mesamoto and John Ruddy’s new location offered the expanses of wall space required for their sumptuous selection of vintage Japanese textiles.
Another group of galleries was clustered at the foot of, and up, Santa Fe’s storied Canyon Road. In Coulter-Brooks Antiques, Lane Coulter enthusiastically showed a collection of renderings of Eighteenth to early Twentieth Century decorative art from the 50-work “Portfolio of Spanish Colonial Design.” These images, originally created as watercolors by E. (Elizabeth) Boyd in the early 1930s, were rendered as woodblock and linocut prints by six different artists and then completed in watercolor by a variety of artists employed as part of the Depression era’s Works Progress Administration federal art project.
In the same charming adobe complex, Eric Erdoes of Buffalo Tracks Gallery was busy showing clients textiles, beadwork and ceramics. Next door at Susan Swift Art and Adornment, where important Native American jewelry dominates, the unique contemporary work of a Kansas City watchmaker’s daughter, Martha Joe Benson, popped from the showcase to the eye.
Nearby on Paseo de Peralta, visitors spent hours studying the array of Native American ceramics shown by both Steve Elmore and Lynn Fox, while up Canyon Road at Nedra Matteucci’s Morningstar Gallery, curator and director Henry “Chick” Monahan had assembled an engaging show of objects and attire from Nineteenth Century Plains tribes, including an exceedingly rare fully beaded child’s saddle.
Several blocks away, Roadside America and House of Ancestors, both traditional general antiques shops with a Southwestern flair, were busy. James Godman attributed the profusion of sold signs in House of Ancestors to decorating needs created by Santa Fe’s residential real estate boom.
And at a motel out on the Old Pecos Trail, Presidio Jewelry’s Dan Harlen held court, offering a wide selection of silver and stones, including a modern squash blossom necklace attributed to Homer Lambert (Zuni), which he sold.
Event organizer Brant Mackley’s gallery, near the State Capital Complex, was one of only two galleries to host an out-of-towner. Mackley’s always exceptional historic Native American gallery provided a separate room where works from Joe Loux’s Asian and Tribal Gallery in San Francisco were shown.
“In talking to the dealers and our experience here,” Mackley said, “the walk was very successful,” continuing, “that whole week people were coming in for the first time who didn’t know we’re here, so we’re certainly seeing new people, also younger people, which is great.” About Santa Fe Virtual’s third online foray, Mackley said he believed that the buying pattern was different than earlier shows when most active buying was early. This time, much like live shows, much of the action happened the last day. Mackley believes that the Gallery Walk will grow in size and importance. “During and after the event,” he said, “a number of dealers told us they should have taken part and want to join us in the future.”
For additional information, www.santfevirtual.com.
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