According to gallerist Nedra Matteucci, fine art “has been a constant thread that’s been central to [Santa Fe’s] culture and economy,” playing a major role in the city’s evolution over the past century; adding that it’s a result of “significant growth in the quality and range of the art, in recent decades,” that’s built Santa Fe into the leading art market it’s become.

Occupying a historic compound of pueblos in historic Downtown Santa Fe, the Nedra Matteucci Galleries have established themselves over the past four decades, as a specialist in 19th and 20th century American art, with a focus ranging from the Tao Society of Artists, and the American Modernist and Impressionist schools, to those contemporary artists who evoke the spirit of modern western art. 

But unlike many galleries where the building is irrelevant (beyond being a source of walls from which to hang the art) and meant to literally fade into the background, the setting of the Matteucci Galleries is part of the story; and nowhere more so than after you cross the threshold of the seemingly banal doorway that leads from one of the painting galleries to the sculpture garden outside, where your first thought (after your eyes have acclimated to the sunlight) might well be “Uh… Am I in Narnia?”

There, in the aridity that one encounters at 7,200 feet above sea level (Santa Fe’s elevation is the highest of any US state capital), you’ll amaze at how perfectly the one-acre oasis’ lush verdancy lends itself to the clever synthesis of art and environment, where large-scale bronze sculptures are integrated into the setting.  And as Bodhi (NMG’s resident beagle) saunters across the lawn to size you up, Dan Ostermiller’s joyful Rearing Elephant (1998) stands frozen, mid-frolic, at the watering-hole; while, in another nook of the garden, as a half-dozen doves fly upwards from her hands, David Wynne’s Girl with Doves (1970) looks skyward, projecting hope.

Matteucci (who has maintained the property since acquiring the former Forrest Fenn gallery, in 1988) transformed the one-time apple orchard into a parklike venue in which to display the gallery’s sculptures.  Mature-growth trees provide shade; as flagstone pathways meander through the landscaping, alongside a free-form pond with a fountain, a bridge, and gentle waterfall that sparkles as the water cascades over the rockery.

“Opening the sculpture garden became a primary goal for me when I acquired the gallery,” explains Matteucci.  “Just walking through it and observing the vast and beautiful sculptures brings me tremendous pleasure.”

Call it curation, visual merchandising, or even mise-ing the scène; but in the Nedra Matteucci Galleries’ sculpture garden, the art – while certainly the leading narrative – is only part of the story; and it’s a story you’re gonna want to experience for yourself.

Nedra Matteucci Galleries
Santa Fe, NM
Click HERE for info

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[Editor’s Note: A different version of this article was published in Celebrated Living, May/June 2019 (ink Global)]

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