Art Santa Fe didn’t share International Folk Art Market’s hordes of attendees this past weekend, but the contemporary art fair did stage its own quiet riot. Nearly 30 galleries (mostly from the US) representing artists from around the world gave Santa Fe a taste of art’s avant-garde. Contemporary art incorporates a severely huge spectrum of media, styles, artists, aesthetics, etc.; so naturally, it’s difficult to form a cohesive takeaway. Instead, we’ve compiled a loose list of standouts.

Venue Most Likely to Undermine Contemporary-ness of Art: Santa Fe Community Convention Center, New Mexico
The SFC3’s Southwest-themed carpeting and hotel-conference feel scream a lot of things, but contemporary art isn’t one of them. The aesthetic detracted from a lot of very cool art, and booth dividers left over from last year’s SOFA West did little to help. I know the SFC3 has the biggest footprint around, but Art Santa Fe has the fewest footprints of any major summer art fair. Find a venue that better accentuates (or at least distracts less) from the art.

Simultaneously Best and Worst in Show: Gallery Edel, Japan
Gallery Edel’s offerings were profoundly schizophrenic in quality. Some offerings were great: Hisayoshi Komaki’s quietly lovely depictions of water in pigment and ink on paper (one of which graced the cover of Art Santa Fe’s magazine); Yayoi Kusama’s delicate screenprints on glass that look like Indian cutout paper art; Kazua Hashimoto’s hysterical and bright renditions of whales a la Lisa Frank folders on crack. Others encouraged an epileptic fit, like a sparkly embroidery by Rumi Sakamoto of two birds kissing in outer space.

Best (Perhaps Only) Reason to Wear Someone Else’s Shoes: “Dreamteam,” Galerie Renate Bender, Germany
“Dreamteam,” an installation by Regine Schumann and Alberto Frei, involved a darkened room, black light, illuminated colorful orbs and a grid of black-and-white portraits that appeared to float against the back wall. Attendees could walk among the orbs and portraits, provided they wore special slippers
over their shoes so as not to sully the perfectly black carpet. We don’t necessarily “get” the relationship between
the orbs and the portraits, but the piece as a whole is interesting, interactive
and fun.

Biggest Gimmick: “Footprints,” Peter Weber, Germany
Peter Weber is known for his “foldings”—ie, cloth folded into complicated patterns for minimalist white-on-white, low relief sculptures; appearing like flattened origami or interwoven ACE bandages. As part of his ongoing “Footprints Project,” Weber placed foldings around Art Santa Fe to absorb attendees’ footsteps, which would serve as color contrasts when the works were unfolded. Ostensibly, this added an element of performance art or audience participation, but the addition just seemed forced.

Most Eclectic (and Awesome) Collection: The Frostig Collection, California
Tiny efforts by numerous big-shot artists—Charles Arnoldi, Nancy Rubins, Frank Gehry and many more—crowded the little booth. Unlike other works, which are represented by galleries, these support a nonprofit: the Frostig Center, which helps children with learning disabilities. Acclaimed artists donate pieces—often on a smaller scale or in a different medium than usual—to benefit the organization. The pint-sized pieces were all blockbusters, but particular standouts included Arnoldi’s “Orphan,” a brightly colored lithograph, and a gorgeous woodblock print by Alison Saar called “Spiral Betty.”

Most Striking: “The Mexican Tsunami,” Decorazongallery, New York/Texas
Yellow bricks—plastic bags stuffed with recycled filling to represent large-scale marijuana transport—made up Hugo Garcia Urrutia’s 12-foot-high, 16-foot-wide wall, “The Mexican Tsunami.” The top left corner extended forward—the crest of a wave about to crash. Even the dangerously obvious title couldn’t harm how arresting this piece is.