Marfa’s hype suddenly makes sense as you enter the historic cannon shed, with large windows, sweeping desert views, and sun-dazzling aluminum boxes. Artist Donald Judd single-handedly put Marfa on the art world map when Marfa built this museum on the site of a former garrison. The grounds and abandoned buildings are home to one of the world’s largest permanent exhibitions of his minimalist art.
The whole place is a breathtaking fusion of art, architecture and landscape. The best way to immerse yourself in Judd’s work is to take a guided tour. Tours are currently offered on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 9am and 10am and are 90 minutes long. The tour stops at the Cannon Hut, which houses 100 of Judd’s untitled aluminum works. The tour also visits 16 of his untitled plywood works and an arena. Visitors can explore Judd’s 15 untitled concrete works on their own after the tour.
Specialty His Tour and Full His Collection Tour include works by other artists. If you don’t have time for a guided tour, take a self-guided tour of at least 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) to see his concrete work. The vast grasslands and open spaces surrounding the hollow concrete box are an integral part of the work, and the scenery is mesmerizing. Self-guided his tour will also pass by Kress his Oldenburg and Kuchevanbrüggen’s Last Horse Monument. Guided tours are $25 and self-guided tours are $15.
The independently managed Judd Foundation maintains Donald He Judd’s home and office in downtown Marfa. A tour of his studio and library is available ($25).
Known for his sophisticated and vibrant minimalist installations, Donald His Judd was also an architect, furniture designer, essayist, art collector, art critic, and avid advocate of art and expression. . Born in Missouri, Judd served as a technician in the U.S. Army in South Korea in the mid-1940s before moving to New York City, where he studied art history and philosophy at Columbia University and painting at the College of Art. . He was a prolific art critic and painter in his early twenties.
Three-dimensional artwork became his focus, and he worked from his home and studio in his five-story building he purchased at 101 Street in Spring, Manhattan. Judd started buying studios, residences and ranches in Marfa in 1973. He eventually left the New York art scene when he devoted himself to his possessions in West Texas. Here he began creating and installing permanent artwork, employing open spaces as canvases and industrial materials as his preferred artistic medium.
In 1979 he acquired his 400-hectare former military base and his 32 abandoned buildings on the outskirts of Marfa. It soon became home to the Chinati Foundation, which he founded in 1986 with the aim of permanently exhibiting his site-specific work and that of international artists. The foundation is named after the Chinati Mountains southwest of Marfa. Judd was not only a sometimes controversial but passionate advocate of the arts, but also a visionary. His dream of seeing art in a space-appropriate setting has come true in Marfa. He died in his 1995 at the age of 64.
At the center of the Judd collection are 100 untitled works made of rolled aluminum. For this work, Judd remodeled two artillery sheds, replaced the garage with his doors with squares and his quarter windows, and increased the height of the building, which he doubled with vaulted walls. Added roof. The sculptures span both halls and are arranged in three rows. Also, all sculptures have the same dimensions, but each has a different internal shape. Natural light fills the hut through prominent windows and also borders vast desert meadows that stretch out to the horizon.
Fifteen untitled concrete works were poured and installed between 1980 and 1984. Visitors literally step into the ‘canvas’ as they pass by concrete boxes on high desert plains. Another highlight of his is the arena restored by Judd, which was used as a fortress gymnasium and later as a horse arena. It is characterized by its reduced appearance, with long alternating strips of concrete and gravel filling the floor space and marking the work.
What about other permanent works? An untitled piece that includes a fluorescent light installation by Dan Flavin, a recreation of an abandoned Soviet school building by Ilya Kabakov, and an entire abandoned military hospital by Robert Irwin. These installations are not currently included in any tours, but may be included in future special or full collection tours. Claes Oldenburg and his Coosje van Bruggen created another outdoor piece, Monument to the Last Horse. It is located near 15 untitled concrete works. A horseshoe sculpture commemorates an old monument marking the tomb of Louis, the last surviving cavalryman at the fort. Like the original marker, the engraving bears the inscriptions Animo and Fide – spirited and faithful.
Plan Your Visit
Reservations are currently required for guided and self-guided tours. Currently, only a handful of Judd’s interior exhibits are on display during the tour. The museum is located in the high desert, so the sun can be very strong during the day. Dress appropriately and wear comfortable, sturdy closed-toe shoes. The museum is in the Central Time Zone. Since El Paso is in the Mountain Time Zone, he should allow for a 1-hour error if driving from El Paso.
Things to Do in Marfa
A highland cattle town with an artistic side, Marfa makes a charming base from which to explore West Texas. And the occasional glimmer of mysterious marfalite on the distant horizon adds a touch of whimsy. Look for the lights at the Marfa Mystery Lights Lookout, about 14 miles east of town on Highway 90/67. Overnight guests can stay in vintage caravans, yurts, or teepees at the bohemian El Cosmico campground. Don’t miss Food Shark’s marfalafel, Mediterranean food trucks and Marfa Burrito’s burritos. Please note that restaurant hours vary and many popular restaurants close early in the week.