Medicine Man Gallery to sponsor SWAIA Indian Market Best of Show award
By Chadd Scott
Cara Romero (Chemehuevi) Best of Category photograph from SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market 2022 awards ceremony | Photo by Chadd Scott
The next 100 years of SWAIA Indian Market begin with Medicine Man Gallery sponsoring the event’s Best of Show Award. Celebrating it’s 101st edition August 18-20, 2023, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts Indian Market in Santa Fe brings together over 1,000 Native American artists from 200-plus sovereign nations and upwards of 100,000 attendees making it the largest Indigenous arts show in the world.
Medicine Man Gallery founder and owner Mark Sublette attended his first “Market” in 1989 best he can remember. Back before the gallery opened. He hadn’t missed one since the early 1990s prior to last year when his receipt of the Charles Russell Heritage Award on the same weekend required breaking a 30-year string.
Why is taking on this sponsorship important to him?
“I believe it’s critical to support contemporary Native artists,” Sublette said. “It’s a dream of mine to be able to be included in such an important award for Native arts – last year’s award sponsor for Best of Show was Ralph Lauren!”
Medicine Man Gallery in Tucson and online will sponsor the Best of Show Award for the next five years.
For Sublette, as is the case with many of the artists and visitors, Indian Market has become a cherished family tradition. Rarely does someone go just once. Much more common are those who schedule their entire year around attending.
Friendships are formed between artists, between collectors, and between artists and collectors, giving the weekend a reunion feel vastly different from the haughty atmosphere of other premiere contemporary art fairs.
All of the artists juried into Market are on hand at their booths Saturday and Sunday greeting visitors and catching up on a year’s worth of happenings with colleagues. Not only can visitors buy the best of the best contemporary Native art, they can meet the artists. That’s extraordinary. No one’s going to Art Basel Miami Beach and meeting Mark Bradford and discussing his paintings. But at Indian Market, you can meet Mateo Romero (Cochiti Pueblo) or Kathleen Wall (Jemez Pueblo) or Kelly Church (Ottawa/Pottawatomi) or Nocona Burgess (Comanche) – leaders in their field – at their booths and shoot the breeze.
Attending Market is not only a bucket list item for anyone interested in Native American art, it’s a bucket list item for anyone interested in art, period. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Louvre in Paris. The Sistine Chapel. Indian Market. There are only a few lifetime “musts” for art lovers worldwide and Market is on the list. Surpassing those other experiences, Market lives and breathes, again, you can meet the makers, and it’s all free.
Medicine Man Gallery is one of the finest purveyors of customary and contemporary Native American art in the country and has been for decades. Sublette’s interest in the subject began in childhood.
“Growing up in New Mexico and living most of my adult life in Arizona reminds me daily of the importance of Native culture and a big part of the culture is reflected in the arts,” he said. “Medicine Man Gallery from it’s opening has dealt in contemporary art, we represent many Native artists, and we want to support their careers. Native Arts is American Art and without recognizing its importance in that art dialog we are missing the key ingredient to our own heritage.”
Like Sublette, individuals can support SWAIA. For as little as $75 per year, members receive early access to see the judges’ top selections across all 10 categories at Market as well as Best of Show Friday afternoon at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.
These sneak peeks are not open to the public and can give serious collectors a jump on the competition.
“Preview the winners and see the art before it goes to the artist’s booth that will be available for sale the next morning on the Plaza,” Sublette advises, speaking from experience. “Make your selections of what interests you then show up early at the booths and have fun.”
Technically, Market opens to the public at 9:00 AM Saturday morning for purchasing. Looky-loos start filtering into Santa Fe Plaza not long after sunrise. Die hard collectors have been known to spend the night in front of their favorite artist’s booth assuring their pick of the litter.
It’s an outdoor event, so be prepared for the conditions which can range from 100 degrees and blistering sun to rain, as was the case in 2022. Wear sunscreen and a hat. Expect to be browsing for hours.
“Essential West” published an article last year detailing tips to make the most of your Indian Market visit.
And be considerate, to the artists and your fellow attendees.
“Remember this is for many artists the most important weekend of the year so please respect they are trying to make sales,” Sublette reminds. Some artists generate their entire yearly income solely from sales at SWAIA Indian Market. “Make your purchase, get a photo, and let the next person in line participate in what I believe is one of the most magical events you will ever attend.”
Market lasts until 5:00 PM Saturday and Sunday. If you want more time with an artist, by Sunday afternoon the crowds will have died down and your favorite artist may appreciate the company.
Mark Sublette will be there. Over one thousand of the leading contemporary Native American artists will be there. Hopefully you too can attend Indian Market in 2023 and become part of its unique legacy.
Russell Sanchez, San Ildefonso Pueblo, best in show pottery from SWAIA Indian Market 2022 | Photo by Tira Howard Photography