Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Draws Tourists to Santa Fe

By Gilmore, Joan | THE JOURNAL RECORD, September 5, 1997 | Go to article overview

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Draws Tourists to Santa Fe


Gilmore, Joan, THE JOURNAL RECORD


SANTA FE, N.M. -- A major addition to Santa Fe's culture scene is the new Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, America's first art museum dedicated to the work of a woman artist of international stature and a premier American modernist.

Opened in July, the museum near downtown Santa Fe is in a 13,000- square-foot adobe building renovated by architect Richard Gluckman.

With more than 80 paintings, watercolors, drawings, pastels and sculptures, the museum's holdings represent the largest repository of work by O'Keeffe, held in either public or private hands. Subjects range from the artist's flowers and bleached desert skulls to nudes, landscapes, cityscapes and still lives, dating between 1914 and 1982. A number of the watercolors, circa 1912-14, are similar to those exhibited at Oklahoma City's City Arts Center in December.

Born in 1887 in Wisconsin, O'Keeffe made her first visit to Santa Fe in 1917 and lived and worked fulltime in New Mexico from 1949 until her death in 1986. On her first visit to the state as a 30- year-old, she said, "When I got to New Mexico, that was mine." However, she lived in several places, including New York City, before finally making her home at Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, in the land that she loved and depicted so dramatically.

Since the day it opened in a facility that not only was formerly a gallery but also a church, people have lined up to enter the museum where more than 80 of her works are on permanent display. The line forms before the museum opens and continues until the closing hour each day. Guards admit 25 people at a time to tour the galleries and visit the gift shop.

In the Plazuela, or small courtyard at the museum, is a major sculpture by O'Keeffe.

Of cast aluminum, it is titled "Abstraction, 1945 and 1979-80," indicating it took her more than 30 years to complete it.

The museum encompasses 10 exhibition spaces for the 80-some paintings, sculptures, drawings, watercolors and pastels. Included is the small painting of red poppies that also adorns a U.S. postage stamp.

This painting is framed and then re-framed in special protective glass.

The comprehensive exhibit includes New Mexico and Southwestern themes as well as big-city scenes from New York where she lived with and married photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The core group of 33 paintings come from a joint purchase and gift agreement between the O'Keeffe Foundation and the Burnett Foundation. Others are on loan from the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts and from private collections.

Among the private collectors are John and Anne Marion, Fort Worth residents who also live part of the time in Santa Fe. They were instrumental in securing the museum for Santa Fe rather than letting it be built in Abiquiu as first proposed. …

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