Located at the end of the historic Santa Fe trail, the city of Santa Fe has long been a commercial and cultural mecca. Founded in 1610, Santa Fe became a trading post in the 1800s, and went on to evolve into a major center for Native American art, a tradition that has continued ever since.
In 1922, the town became the site of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts Santa Fe Indian Market, now the largest Native American event in the world. The annual juried art fair showcases the work of 1,000 Indigenous artists from the United States and Canada. As part of its Centennial this summer, the SWAIA will launch Art Indigenous Santa Fe, a new art fair for galleries that represent contemporary North American Indigenous artists. The gallery-based show will be produced and directed by seasoned art show producer Kim Martindale.
The fair is geared to recontextualize Indigenous art, giving it its due in a new way by including artists working with galleries who have not previously been part of Indian Market. This new level of recognition is long overdue, said Martindale. “We’re really bringing in a whole other world of art that hasn’t been so much of a focus in Santa Fe. The world is starting to get a taste of that by what happened in Basel for the first time, in Miami, having seven Basel level galleries actually show Indigenous art, and two of those galleries having solo exhibitions in their booths. That’s an amazing thing, that moment in time that just happened in December.”
The featured artists are all part of the North American Indigenous art scene, but the presence of this new fair provides a sort of perspective shift for Indigenous art. Many of these gallery artists have attended blue chip art schools like Rhode Island School of Design and the highly regarded fine arts programs of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe. As such, while these artists are part of the Indigenous tradition, they have established a certain cachet in the art world at large, in some cases with work that commands high prices at auction. “We’re bringing that to Santa Fe so you can see the full spectrum,” Martindale said.
The concept for the show has been in the works for almost three years, coinciding in an elegant way with the timing of the SWAIA Centennial. Martindale pointed out that North American Indigenous art has only recently been given the attention it merits. It wasn’t until 2017 that New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art showed Native American art in its American wing. “I think it’s an important statement, because for so long, in most museums, it was put off into that ethnographic wing. These are living cultures. They didn’t die,” said Martindale. “They still are living functioning cultures and here’s this art that’s coming out of them.”
Indigenous art hasn’t had that moment where people have really looked at it, Martindale said. People often bypass it or relegate it to craft. “Whatever tradition they have, Native American or First Nations artists are artists first, but it’s the traditions they come out of that inspire how they paint and what develops their style. They all have a unique tradition, but they’re all part of the indigenous cultures of the U.S. and Canada – and that should be honored.”
Martindale produces the two Objects of Art Shows (The Tribal and Textile Art Show and American Indian Art Show) and ran the LA Art Show for 25 years. He’s also been a devoted collector of North American Indigenous art since childhood. He recalled, at the age of six, displaying his collection of arrowheads, seashells and bottles in his bedroom, which he named the “Kimrarium Museum.” This latest iteration is an extension of that. Martindale said his love of collecting is the underlying force behind this new project. “It’s what drives me really,” he said. “It’s part of my DNA.”
As part of his long-range vision for the concept, Martindale hopes to take the show to other cities, like Miami and LA. Ultimately, he’d like to bring selected work by featured artists to fairs in Europe, Asia and elsewhere around the world. At some point, the concept would expand to include exchanges with other fairs, like the Moroccan Biennale. “Its time is really now,” Martindale said. “There are so many things that are coming together at this moment, which makes me excited about this project.”
The inaugural Art Indigenous Santa Fe takes place August 18 to 21, 2022.