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With a 300-year history, a mix of three prominent cultures, and mountain and desert landscapes that thrill the creative spirit, Albuquerque is bursting at the seams with stunning contemporary art, traditional art, and New Mexican folk art at all price ranges. From galleries with only the best of Indian art in Old Town to visionary modern art, you’ll find the city’s galleries and museums inspiring, innovative and perhaps challenging. No wonder AmericanStyle magazine readers rated Albuquerque the #5 Big City Art Destination, right behind San Francisco. On these two tours, you'll see New Mexican folk art, paintings, photography, sculpture, ceramics and textiles unequalled in the Southwest, or the nation.
With almost two dozen art galleries, Old Town steps in as a convenient center for traditional, folk and contemporary art. If you want inexpensive jewelry or a souvenir, have fun shopping the sidewalk vendors and tourist stores. If you want heirloom-quality rugs, pottery, ceramics or jewelry with gem-quality turquoise, visit the galleries that specialize in fine pueblo and Southwestern art. Antique enthusiasts will find stores with Hispanic, American West and Spanish articles.
Starting at the Plaza, take your time browsing. Look at the shops in the side plazas and patios and don’t be bashful about asking questions about the Indian artists and authenticity. Two pots may look identical, but one is twice the price: The cheaper one is green ware or molded instead of traditionally made from hand-gathered clay and materials. The same with turquoise jewelry. Inexpensive pieces are made with factory-produced settings and stabilized and dyed turquoise instead of gem quality “natural” stones. Let your taste and credit limit decide which is for you. Learn all about the varieties of turquoise and how to tell the difference at the Turquoise Museum located just west of the Old Town Plaza.
Old Town galleries carry a great variety of Zuni fetishes, Pueblo storytellers, the acclaimed Acoma pottery, Navajo rugs, Hopi kachinas, silver buckles and jewelry, and carvings. Quality galleries line Romero and San Felipe streets from the Plaza to Mountain Road, as well as the side plazas. On Romero, check out Plaza San Luis and Plazuela Sombra, upstairs and down. On San Felipe, don’t miss the fine art, photo and Hispanic folk-art galleries tucked away in Poco Apoco Patio. Take time to explore the ethnic art stores, too. You’ll find creative folk and religious art, textiles and paintings from Mexico, Guatemala, Latin America and Southwest artists.
As the first colonists entering New Mexico, Hispanic artisans and craftsmen brought art forms that still greatly influence modern artists. Hispanic art often reflects a fusion of indigenous Spanish, Mexican, African, North American and religious influences. Plan to spend several hours at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum. The small gallery at the South Broadway Cultural Center also displays and sells Hispanic art.
Old Town has the reputation as a Native American art center, but if your taste is more avant-garde, you’ll find contemporary galleries with visual and ceramic arts, jewelry, photography and sculpture. Concentrated along Romero and San Felipe streets, a half-dozen galleries feature the works of the finest regional artists and artisans. Some of the top-end galleries also carry contemporary, non-traditional work by Indian artists.
From Old Town to Nob Hill, the Central Avenue/Route 66 corridor abounds with New Mexican art galleries. In the heart of downtown, you’ll find conceptual and contemporary art, fine art, community art, New Mexican folk art and Indian art galleries. Farther east in Nob Hill, shop for the eclectic and bizarre in Mexican folk art and world import galleries, as well as fine art and jewelry in high-end galleries.
As Albuquerque grew through the decades, clusters of galleries and artist studios sprung up in neighborhoods across the city. The rural lifestyle of the village of Corrales has attracted artists since horses roamed its dusty streets… actually they still do. Small galleries, mostly co-op or artist-owned, line the winding Corrales Road with New Mexican folk art and fine art from the numerous local artists.
The eclectic Albuquerque art scene, called “quirky” by AmericanStyle magazine, features gallery walks on the first and third Friday of each month sponsored by the Albuquerque Art Business Association. The citywide First Friday ArtsCrawl highlights about two dozen participating gallery and art centers. The Third Friday ArtsCrawl, in its 19th year, focuses on a different section of town each month with 10-12 participating galleries. The galleries showcase openings, new artists, and special exhibits and often feature light refreshments and live music. Call or check the website for list of galleries and maps.
Since 1978, Albuquerque has dedicated 1% of all general obligation funds for construction to public art. Now, more than 600 works of art decorate city parks, plazas, offices and buildings, intersections, overpasses and esplanades. Eye-catching sculptures, paintings, murals, metal works, walls and benches decorate the parks and public buildings throughout town. Towering statues, archways and ceramic murals add commuter interest to the city’s major thoroughfares. While waiting for your flight, enjoy the eclectic collection of contemporary and Native American art displayed at the Albuquerque International Sunport.
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