The Success of Art Installations and Foundations in Marfa, Texas

Installation is often large, and being something that cannot be bought or moved to another location, the questions arises of how to maintain something so big? Foundations are key to the preservation of non-commercial art, either in free museums, public installations, or a blend of the two like Marfa, Texas. These notable works are all made possible with the support of a foundation.

Prada Marfa—Ballroom Cultural Arts Foundation and Art Production Fund

Although not an early addition to the Marfa landscape (having been completed in 2005), Prada Marfa may very well be the most iconic for those who have yet to arrive in this desert art oasis, thanks in part to Beyoncé’s Instagram shot taken in front of the building in 2012.  In a world where nature scoffs as the materialism and consumerism of modern society, Prada Marfa stands at the proverbial cross-roads.

Both the Ballroom Cultural Arts Foundation and Art Production Fund worked in unison, along with private individuals, to produce this famous installation.

15 Concrete Artworks—Chinati Foundation

The birth of Marfa as the home to installation art began with Donald Judd’s 15 concrete artworks. They stand as a testament to his attitude of art and architecture, what he was quoted in 1964 as the “plain beauty of well-made things.” Today, visitors can take a sunrise tour of the exhibitions here and experience the splendor of nature’s art combined with Judd’s pieces as the sun casts light and shadow over the surrounding and the blocks. Their simplicity forces viewers to consider both the strength and fortitude of Judd’s works and the beauty of nature, which man cannot truly replicate.

This was established by Judd with support of Dia Art Foundation, and then taken over by Chinati in 1986 upon its creation as an independent nonprofit museum.

John Chamberlain and Carl Andre—Chinati Foundation

Although he never would admit that his iconic crushed car sculptures meant anything related to consumerism or the fascination with cars in America, his works are successful for the varied interpretations viewers have expressed over the years. Chamberlain and Judd together installed the works in the early 1980’s as the facility was being overhauled for its use as an art gallery.  Chamberlain later attempted to separate himself from the overwhelming attitude that he was a “car sculptor” and began creating works in foam, some of which are on display here in Marfa.

Although known for his sculpture, Carl Andre’s WORDS exhibit breaks from large-scale installation art, as Carl Andre’s works of poetry still echo the simplicity Judd was looking for when he came to Marfa. Andre has written over 1,500 words in his career, and gifted nearly 500 to the Chinati Foundation, adding another layer to the works on display here. The pages represent an interesting combination of visual and written art, a style in which Andre recreated the same sensibility found in many other Marfa works. Housed in its own building, Andre’s poetry provides a union of visual and written art.

The works of John Chamberlain are also supported by the Chinati Foundation.

100 Aluminum Works—Chinati Foundation

Judd’s plan for wide open spaces to create and exhibit his large-scale installation works started with purchasing the former US military airplane hangars, barracks, gymnasium and warehouses, which at one time housed German POW prisoners. The facility combines workspace and studios, housing his 100 untitled works in aluminum, which represents the sensibility and order Judd created in his works, with clean lines in utilitarian style. The pieces of art and the buildings in which they reside are together the entire work, the experience.