Machined aluminum boxes, fluorescent tubes, and salvaged auto bodies are just some of the sculptural media used to create the modern art housed at the Chinati Foundation, a series of modern art installations on a repurposed military base once studio to artist Donald Judd, on the desolate West Texas plains.
Needing more space and wanting to establish a permanent location for the installation of his work and the work of contemporaries in which the work would be displayed appropriately and not subject to damage from being moved, Donald Judd purchased 340 acres near Marfa, TX, including the abandoned U.S. Army Fort D. A. Russell in 1979. The complex first opened to the public in 1986, originally providing a permanent home to works by Judd, John Chamberlain, and Dan Flavin. Since then, other artists’ works have followed and a vibrant artistic community has grown up around the foundation. The focus of the collection is on large-scale sculptural works which are made to be inextricable from their chosen surroundings.
Marfa has lately become something of an art world destination, which has in turn revitalized the once semi derelict cattle town with the addition of new galleries, bookstores, restaurants etc., along with attracting new short and long term artist residents from the more expensive art hubs of NYC and LA, as well as a substantial population of artists from Europe.
The entire collection is only available through private tours, which require good shoes and a bottle of water as they can take an entire day to cover the sprawling, arid location, winding indoors and outdoors. The permanent works have become so revered the site was recently recognized by the World Monuments Fund as one worthy of conservation and preservation. Since its founding, the Chinati Foundation has helped turn Marfa, Texas into a unlikely mix of small town Texas vistas and big city artistic pretension.
Know Before You Go
In Marfa, turn left at the blinking red light. Travel 1/2 mile, turn right at the Chinati Foundation sign. Follow this road, it will veer to the left and up a hill; the foundation is atop the hill