Marfa, Texas. Experience the warmth of the people in Texas at this sacred place for contemporary art pioneered by Donald Judd.
A city in west Texas, USA. It is a town with a population of about 2,000 people, so it might be appropriate to write it as a “town”. This place is famous as an art town. Donald Judd, a representative artist of minimalism, moved to Marfa from New York and founded an art museum called the Chinati Foundation in 1986. This Chinati Foundation led to Marfa’s evolution as an art town.
The closest major city is El Paso, Texas. It is three-hour drive through the wilderness from El Paso. It is one of the most difficult places to access in Texas. The area is the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest desert in the United States. It is an oasis in the middle of wilderness.
Marfa has many galleries in addition to the museum founded by Donald Judd. The A4 sheet of paper at the visitor center listed 21 museums and galleries. Similarly, other A4 sheets of paper at the visitor center listed 19 restaurants, 8 bars, 5 cafes, and 28 shops.
The symbolic building of the town is the courthouse in the center. Highland Street, the heart of Marfa, runs in front of this European-style building, lined with shops on both sides. The view of the courthouse from Highland Street is a symbolic view of Marfa.
If you look at the number of restaurants and shops mentioned above, you might think it is a lively place. However, even in the center of the town mentioned above, the shops lined up for about 50 meters, so it is really an American country town. Furthermore many of the stores do not open every day, but only on weekends, and most of them close in the evening.
However, what makes it different from an ordinary country town is that there are modern art galleries, restaurants and shops with a stylish atmosphere, and the number of visitors to the town is young. I stayed there for three days, from Wednesday to Friday, and as I was walking through the center of town, I saw young people walking on the street, and from their fashion I thought they were walking around Westwood, west of Los Angeles.
And above all, the people of the town are lively. It was fun to see so many places where conversations started naturally at museums, shops, and restaurants. Below, I list the places that left a particularly strong impression on me. It is quite possible to come to America just to visit this town. Please visit.
- Hotel Paisano
Let’s start with the hotel. There are two famous hotels in Marfa. This Hotel Paisano and the Hotel St. George mentioned next. Both hotels have a long history, but Hotel Paisano opened in 1930. Although it was renovated midway through, it is a historic hotel that still retains the vestiges of its time. It is famous that filming crew for the movie “Giants”, starring “James Dean” and “Elizabeth Taylor”, stayed. It is a story in 1955.
In the lobby and hallways on the floor, there were photos of the filming location for “Giants.” The room is not large but comfortable. It is a place where you can feel the history. There is a fountain in the courtyard and a pool in the back. Although the pool is not large enough to swim, you can still feel a sense of what it must have been like in the past as a luxurious facility.
The restaurant also retains the atmosphere of the past. For dinner, I want you to try the famous PISTACHIO FRIED STEAK. In addition, handwritten accommodation notes are available at the reception, and it was impressive to see the hotel staff checking the names written on the notes when checking in.
- Hotel Saint George
Another hotel that represents Marfa. Founded in 1886. The current hotel is a designer hotel that was rebuilt in 2016. When you enter the hotel building, the lighting is dim and gives you the feel of a city hotel. The room is spacious and the shower room is luxurious. It is the complete opposite of the aforementioned Hotel Paisano. Many of the guests were young people.
At night, the bar area next to the lobby on the first floor was filled with people. Bar counter in the restaurant at the back was also filled with young people. Although this hotel is not suitable for this rural Texas town, it is a hotel full of extraordinary feeling.
In addition, there is a pool exclusively for hotel guests on the premises across the road. It had a stylish feeling that reminded me of the pool at a luxury hotel in Los Angeles, and It was so daunting. The price is higher, but if you want a comfortable stay in Marfa, this hotel should be your first choice.
- Chinati Foundation
As stated at the beginning, this art museum was founded in 1986 by Donald Judd, a representative artist of minimalism, who moved to Marfa from New York. Installation artworks are lined up on a vast site. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be “amazing.” See separate article for details.
- Judd Foundation
Another museum where you can see Donald Judd’s artwork. More precisely, a tour organized by the Judd Foundation that takes you around the places where Donald Judd worked. We visited the old bank building in the center of town, the building behind it, and a small warehouse-like building in the back. Donald Judd is also involved in furniture design, and you can admire the chairs, tables, etc. placed inside the building. Anyone interested in furniture design should visit, but if you only have time to visit one of the above-mentioned Chinati Foundation, I recommend Chinati Foundation without hesitation.
- Ballroom Marfa
A gallery that represents Marfa, just outside the center of town. Contemporary style. Ballroom Marfa is one of the galleries that manages the Prada Marfa installation, on Route 90, about a 30-minute drive from Marfa. The warehouse-like building is not large, but the interior is unlike anything you expect from a gallery in rural Texas. There is also a garden where exhibitions are held.
- Ayn Foundation
A gallery located on Highland Street in the center of town. The windows are covered so that the inside cannot be seen from the outside. Walking down the street, it looks like an empty house. This gallery has two spaces with separate entrances. In one room, only Andy Warhol’s Last Supper paintings were on display. A painting based on Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” is painted on a canvas measuring approximately 3m x 10m. All black, handwritten.
When I spoke to an older man from the gallery who was in the room, he explained to me that this painting was about the Last Supper, but it had no color, so Andy Warhol must have forgotten. His interesting explanation got me excited and we had a long conversation. It was fun. Furthermore, Last Supper has been exhibited at this gallery for 20 years.
- Gallery Max Hetzler
This gallery is about 5 minutes by car from the center of town. Opening in 2022. As you drive down the unpaved road, you will see an arched gate at the entrance to the site that resembles the gate of a ranch or farm, and about 50 meters away is a white building. The surrounding area is a wilderness.
When you enter from the entrance, the space inside is about 20m x 8m. It is a two-story building with an atrium in the front and a height of about 5 meters. When I visited, there were large prints of paintings on the walls. There are gallery staff in the back and stairs to the upper floor. There were sofas on the second floor and looked like a place for business negotiations. The fact that a gallery run even in an empty space may be the reason why Marfa has become an art town.
- The Sentinel
Two cafes. The Sentinel is almost in the center of town. It is a 4-minute walk from the aforementioned Hotel St. George. It opens from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Furthermore, most cafes in Marfa only open in the morning and afternoon. This cafe has a comfortable and spacious and stylish interior. I visited on Friday morning around 9am. There was a line in front of the counter, but there was more than enough space in the back of the store and in the garden to relax. It is an excellent space that if it exists in Los Angeles, it would be packed by visitors. If I lived in Marfa, I definitely visit often. That is a kind of place.
- Big Sandy Coffee
This cafe is in a trailer house on Route 90, which runs west from the center of town. There is a cheerful staff with beard who seems to be the owner of the store. For some reason, when we visited, he gave us one bagel for free, offered us an extra cup of their new coffee for tasting, and asked us for our opinions.
In addition, comedy duo like conversation began between a customer from Houston and a shop staff, and the customer who entered the store midway through took out a piece of cheese wrapped in paper and asked store staff to “Could you please put it in the refrigerator?”, then takeing out a computer on the table and started working. A mysterious and fun space.
- Esperanza Vintage＆Art
A shop on Highland Street, in the center of town. The store has miscellaneous goods, vintage clothing, and artwork. There were also photos and paintings, and I found something that caught my attention, so I started talking with the woman working at the store. Afterwards, I talked about a picture of a boxer that was in the store, and it turned out that it was drawn by the husband of the woman. Then I started talking about “Ushio Shinohara”, a Japanese artist famous for his boxing paintings, who she also knows well. It was fun time.
Visited in 2023
■ Name : Marfa
■ Address : Historic USO Building 302 S. Highland Avenue, Marfa, TX USA (Marfa Visitor Center)
(described on Nov 26 2023)