When Nedra Matteucci and her husband, Richard, purchased Forrest Fenn’s property at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Acequia Madre in 1988, they knew it would come with the Greek-style stone wall, bright tile work and quarter-acre pond.
They did not anticipate that Fenn would leave two live alligators as a welcoming gift.
“He said he would take them when he finished his new house, but they had grandchildren and his wife said, ‘No,’” Matteucci tells SFR, adding that her insurance company didn’t like the alligators in the public gallery. “We kept them though still, for a few years,” Matteucci continues, “I tried to get any zoo all around to take them, and it didn’t happen, nobody wanted them. So eventually they went back to Louisiana where they came from.”
In place of the two alligators, Matteucci’s lively pond is now surrounded by an elephant, scores of bears, a spitting toad and two ducks. Though all the animals—apart from the ducks—are cast in bronze, the enclosed garden toes the line between high-end gallery and Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.
While circumnavigating the pond, rattling off artists’ names and anecdotes about each piece, Matteucci tells SFR that it’s time to move on.
“The timing’s right for us,” Matteucci says. “Forest created a wonderful space and I think that we added on with the sculpture garden and things, so it’s going to be a good home or office or whatever it’s going to be for someone.”
Thirty-three years after Matteucci purchased the esteemed gallery from the late, infamous, treasure-hunt-creating and art-dealing Fenn, the ionic 2-acre campus is up for sale again—listed for a cool $9.995 million.
“It’s just a very unique and beautiful space, I hope it stays open to the public to use,” Matteucci says.
As potential art buyers and admirers wander through a doorway between these spaces, lingering between oil paintings of aspens and amorphous marble women, Matteucci recalls Fenn’s reaction when she created a passageway between the riparian-esque garden and the staunch adobe gallery.
“He was very upset when he saw me tearing the wall down to make a door to go out from the gallery; he told me I was going to ruin it,” she says.
It took Fenn 10 years to forgive her for knocking down the wall, but he ultimately agreed it was the right call.
Kevin Bobolsky, the property’s realtor, says he’s been working with the Matteuccis for decades, describing them as “class-act people” and “preservationists.” He tells SFR the property is a steal.
“We have priced it under $500 a square foot,” Bobolsky says. “There’s over 20,000 square feet of adobe, authentic Santa Fe architecture, and a lot of the architecture has artisans or artists who have done turquoise mosaic sinks, or frescos in the walls.”
The whole property carries historical significance, he says: “The detail in these buildings—there’s art built into the architecture.”
Bobolsky mentions his last big sale, the Cerro Pelon Ranch, was sold privately, not in the Multiple Listing Services, which is how he intends to sell the Matteucci Galleries.
“It’s a jewel,” he says, adding that the compound’s listing has piqued an abundance of interest.
With Acequia Madre water rights and five individual homes in the heart of Santa Fe’s east side, the property has attracted potential buyers from all over.
“We’ve had billionaires coming to look at it for a private residence,” Bobolsky says. “We’ve had small tech firms from San Francisco for a campus...We’ve had one person who wants to do a coffeehouse and painting studio because the grounds are so beautiful.”
Another possibility Bobolsky thought interesting: a boutique assisted living complex. And there are less attractive options: “Developers who want to make it into a condominium project.”
“And that would chop it up.”
Though the sellers don’t have any stipulations for what the buyers do with the compound, Bobolsky says that whatever comes of the property, he hopes the new owners create “something where it’s loved but they maintain the integrity of the space, and they don’t squeeze it all out.”
For Matteucci’s next moves, she plans to focus her efforts on her other gallery, Morning Star, off Canyon Road, where she plans to expand without all the overhead that comes with the Acequia Madre property. Twenty-five years ago, Matteucci explains, she bought the property behind Morning Star with the idea of creating another sculpture garden.
She says she hopes to continue the tradition of showing large pieces—like Dan Ostermiller’s life-sized animal sculptures—to the public, transforming that space into, “not a baby Nedra Matteucci gallery, but a smaller gallery.”
This change comes as Matteucci hopes to continue her work, albeit on a smaller scale. By no means is she planning to retire: “I’m very proud of that gallery and all my artists and I don’t want to leave them hanging without a place to show.”
Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this story Forrest Fenn’s name was misspelled.