ART SPACE(s): Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, NM

Meow Wolf emerged blazing from the ashes of the Western art incubator that is Santa Fe, NM. Now a 50-million-dollar arts and entertainment group, Meow Wolf began as an art collective in 2008. The original core of roughly ten artists established the group to support one another’s art practices in Santa Fe’s formalized art market: though reported by the city’s tourism bureau as the third largest in the United States and having once boasted artists like Georgia O’Keefe and Andrew Dasburg, it seemed an alienated offshoot of the American art world.

Meow Wolf bounded together to construct imaginative and story-driven installations that soon caught the attention of the local art community and eventually the region. The collective’s punk beginning morphed into a profitable model for artists on the fringe of the art market with a revolutionary model that shatters preconceptions of art through 8,000 sqm of immersive installations. Their current permanent work based in Santa Fe, titled The House of Return, is connected by an intricate narrative that breaks space and time for the benefit of visitors of all ages.

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Meow Wolf first channeled their drive to challenge ideas of art into paintings that soon became sculptures, then assemblages, and eventually grew into immersive installations. To begin, the artists rented a modest space to collaborate – soon outgrown as their novel approach gained traction in the local art community. Gallery owner Linda Durham invited the collective to recreate their installation, GEODEcadent, in her gallery.

This commission eventually led to a more complex show at the Center of Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, where Meow Wolf constructed a large-scale ship that visitors could board and wander through alien fauna, glowing trees, cliff dwellings, and archive libraries to a soundtrack of singing creatures. The press release described the installation’s mission as a “rejection of any sense of the preciousness of the art object; it is a cultural phenomenon that reflects the raw energy of the youthful collective that made it.”


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