Not far from the Mexican border lies a hidden art hub known as Marfa, Texas. Founded in 1883, Marfa was the subject of a recent PBS Art Trip documentary which explored the origins of the town’s art craze as well as the art itself.
Much of Marfa’s art scene can be traced back to a man known as Donald Judd. Judd, a sculptor commonly associated with minimalism, moved to the town in the early 70s to escape the art scene in New York. While in Marfa, Judd bought and renovated a series of properties and turned them into installations that would permanently showcase his art. Much of Judd’s work emphasizes symmetry, natural lighting, and negative space, and several of these installations doubled as a living space for Judd, and have been preserved in the state Judd left them when he died.
Judd also helped found the Chinati Foundation, which converted abandoned U.S. Army buildings into additional permanent large-scale art installations. The installations feature not only Judd, but artists such as Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain. Photos are discouraged to encourage greater interaction with the art.
Marfa’s art scene, however, isn’t limited to Donald Judd. While many of the buildings in Marfa have been repurposed, from old churches to former dance halls, their functions vary. Some, like the Ballroom Marfa, are nonprofit art centers that house rotating collections, while others such as “the Wrong Shop” offer both a gallery and a shop filled with souvenirs and knick knacks unique to Marfa. Several miles outside of Marfa, there’s another oddity, a replica Prada store in the middle of the desert, filled with pieces from the designer label’s Fall/Winter 2005 collection. The store is not a working one, only a replica, and as such has no door; viewers cannot step inside the replica, only admire it from the outside.
Although Marfa exists beyond its art, art is nevertheless an integral part of the town; and because so much of Marfa’s art was designed specifically for the space in which it resides, many say it’s worth a trip to Marfa to view the art in person. See the Art Trip here