Echoing the Donald Judd retrospective at the MoMA, which is a must see this month, let’s take a closer look at Marfa, a marvellous and intriguing art city in the Chihuahuan Desert where Judd took residence in the 1970s.

This landmark figure of American Minimalism designed homes in Texas where he eventually created the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary multi buildings museum which aimed at presenting large-scale installations strongly linked with the surrounding landscape. 

But why and how did Marfa, a tiny town of 2000 residents lost in the desert, become an Art world center? 

The Chinati Foundation ©John Cummings

It all started when Donald Judd acquired an entire army base and installed his own signature aluminium boxes in these two old brick sheds. He took away the garage doors of the sheds and replaced them with glass windows in order to let the desert’s light pass through and reflect on the boxes. A perfect mix of Art, Architecture and Design.

He also designed these 15 famous giant concrete boxes, some of them he left empty in order to grasp the immensity of the desert.

© Martin Robles

Donald Judd vision inspired various artists that came and still come to Marfa, establishing new galleries, hotels and so on. 

Even if today, Chinati Foundation remains Marfa’s main attraction, displaying Judd’s work but also John Chamberlain’s and Dan Flavin’s pieces, there are many places to visit when pilgrimaging to Marfa.

Pass by the Marfa Book Company, the Ayn Foundation, Inde/Jacobs Gallery or the Ballroom Marfa, the gallery behind the Prada Marfa installation of Elmgreen & Dragset.

This permanent installation was modeled after a Prada store as Miuccia gave permission to use their logo: although the “shop” includes luxury goods from the fall 2005 collection donated by Prada it is not a real market place. The building is made up of biodegradable substance a wink and metaphor for American materialism and consumerism. 

© David Solce

More recently, 2019 saw the opening of the first Marfa’s Contemporary Art Fair by-invitation only; the Marfa Invitational created by the new yorker Michael Phelan. He invited nine galleries and offered them to exhibit each one artist. The Marfa Invitational this year is scheduled to run from April 2-5 at Saint George Hall.

Far away from the crowdedness of big cities, the vastness and southwest landscapes surrounding the town could at first stage seem inconsistent with all the architecture and Art that fill this town, however it is actually a perfect match making Marfa an incredible and appealing gem definitely worthing the trip.