Big names and installations in art and design make this small town in Texas a significant destination.
At the far end of West Texas in Presidio County lies Marfa, a small desert city that has become a must-see attraction for the art world. Originally founded in the 1880s as a water stop, the town grew during World War II because of its airfield, but was really put on the map after the 1970s, when renowned artist Donald Judd began buying buildings to function as a permanent home for himself and his art. Judd’s early purchases included former artillery sheds, airplane hangars, and barracks, which he filled with large-scale installations and pieces.
In contrast to these industrial spaces, oversized installations, and minimalist artwork is the town’s historic center, which features neoclassical buildings with a Texan twist like the Hotel Paisano and the Presidio County Courthouse. Since the 1970s, other artists have made Marfa their home, making it a burgeoning artists’ community for those looking for a simpler life. Here, we explore this town’s range of art installations and galleries, artisanal shops, historic and modern hotels, and even a bit of nature—the Marfa lights.
What to See and Do
With noted minimalist artist Donald Judd largely credited for Marfa’s emergence as an artist’s mecca, his fingerprints remain on several of the town’s most significant institutions, including the eponymous Judd Foundation.
The Judd Foundation offers two different guided visits in downtown Marfa: La Mansana de Chinati/The Block (Judd’s residence and main art studios until 1979, including his personal library and permanent installations), and The Studios (Judd’s downtown studio space). Together, these two tours really allow visitors to have a first-hand experience of his concept of permanent installation in the Chihuahuan Desert.
Judd was also involved with The Chinati Foundation; although he initially received financial support from the New York–based Dia Art Foundation, he turned The Chinati Foundation into a separate, independent institution. Today, it is a contemporary art museum that continues to preserve and present to the public its collection of permanent large-scale installations by a select group of artists.
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