SANTA FE, NM — The art world underwent something of a reckoning in 2017 when The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York decided to display Native American works in its American Wing for the first time.

“It was a spark,” says veteran art show producer Kim Martindale about Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection, an exhibition that premiered in 2018. “It forced The Met to say, ‘No, it’s part of American art.’ It’s the first American art and therefore other museums really need it in their collections rather than shoving it to the side and into the tribal ethnographic portion.”

Martindale — channeling this renewed and overdue attention toward Indigenous art — is producer and director of Art Indigenous Santa Fe. The inaugural contemporary art fair, scheduled to take place this summer during the centennial Southwestern Association for Indian Arts’s Santa Fe Indian Market, has been billed as the first of its kind in the world, where contemporary Indigenous fine art galleries will gather for four days in New Mexico’s capital city. Martindale hopes to expand the Art Indigenous concept — which will feature sculpture, painting, photography, installation, and performance — to other cities.

Rose B. Simpson, “Tonantzin,” (2021), ceramic, steel, leather, brass, 47 x 18 x 13 1/2 inches (courtesy Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art)

Martindale, who says that he produced the LA Art Show for a quarter-century, is a longtime worldwide art fair attendee. For years, the lack of global representation for contemporary Native American and First Nations artists nagged at him.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he says. “Why isn’t there a show for contemporary artists from Indigenous lineage, and why don’t we see more of that art at some of these major shows?”

Along with The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s inclusion of Native American art, Martindale says another milestone took place when the Upper East Side institution hired Patricia Marroquin Norby (Purépecha) as its first full-time curator of Native American art.

“One thing led to another and now there’s a dialog in art museums saying that if you want to have a complete collection of American art, then you need Native American and Indigenous art in the US and Canada in your collection,” says Martindale. “I think this is all gelling together at this moment in time.”

The idea for Art Indigenous Santa Fe took off due to the upcoming centennial anniversary of the Santa Fe Indian Market, which is scheduled to take place in an in-person format. The popular event, said to be North America’s largest and most important juried Indigenous art market, is helmed by Native American woman Kim Peone (Colville Confederated Tribes and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians). The market, which has drawn upwards of 150,000 visitors to New Mexico’s capital city, features Native artists displaying and selling their works in and around the historic Santa Fe Plaza.

Rick Bartow, “Old Song” (2013), pastel, graphite on paper, 26 x 40 inches (courtesy Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art)

Martindale was also encouraged to move forward after attending 2021 Art Basel Miami Beach in Florida. There, for the first time, he noticed that an installation and performance piece section of the fair included a Native American artist. “I thought, ‘Yes. Finally. It’s happening,’” he says.

A partial list of participating Art Indigenous Santa Fe galleries is expected to be announced in April 2022; Martindale says the full roster, which he anticipates will be in the range of 30 to 40 galleries, will drop in May. An Art Indigenous Santa Fe preview event is scheduled from 6 to 10 pm on Thursday, August 18 at El Museo de Cultural de Santa Fe at the Railyard Arts District, and the show will run through Sunday, August 21.

“We’re not taking away anything from Indian Market, but rather adding to Indian Market, and bringing in a whole other group of collectors that maybe wouldn’t come to town for Indian Market,” says Martindale. “With this gallery-oriented show, we’re presenting these artists that have not participated in Indian Market for years or never have.”

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Steve Jansen

Steve Jansen (he/him) is the news editor at Southwest Contemporary. An Albuquerque-based investigative news reporter and arts writer, he has won and been nominated for various state, regional, and...