Contemporary art received a prominent new pedestal in Santa Fe with the architectural transformation of a warehouse venue into a full-blown museum, as SITE Santa Fe opened its doors Friday to visitors after a nine-month overhaul.
The sweeping expansion and redesign of a former beer warehouse adds a snack bar, museum shop, lecture hall, outdoor "sky terrace," educational workshop space and an admission-free introductory gallery.
New climate controls also were added to help protect artwork at the non-collecting art museum that displays borrowed works from across the globe.
Visitors passed into the revamped building through an overhanging aluminum lattice, designed by New York-based SHoP Architects as a deliberate departure from Santa Fe's understated adobe skyline.
The overhaul adds luster to decades-long redevelopment efforts at the city's railyard district, where a movie theater, brew pub and farmers market have sprung up. A 60-unit apartment building is under construction, even as a commercial retail building inches through bankruptcy proceedings.
Chief Curator Irene Hofmann described the renovations as a turning point for a venue founded in 1995 that would allow it to open its doors seven days a week and rarely close between exhibitions. The new exterior was designed to entice visitors.
A quick-tour, free-admission exhibition space was inaugurated Friday with images that chronicle an infamous 1990 museum heist, and a new 10-artist exhibition delved into jarring themes of technological and social change.
Retired occupational therapist Laurel Schnitzer wandered in Friday and described a sense of openness.
"It seems like they really want to engage the community a lot more," she said.
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