When you think of Marfa, Texas, you may think of its Insta-worthy artworks such as Prada Marfa or simply as a small West Texas town that shuts down Monday through Wednesday. But this kitschy town is not just a place to snap a few pictures, but rather is an art lover’s dream in the middle of the desert! There’s so much more to Marfa’s art scene than a few visually aesthetic spots. So, if you decide to visit this small town for its art, I’ve got a massive list of where to experience all of the art in Marfa, Texas.
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Where to See Art in Marfa, Texas
Is Marfa an Art Town?
So, is Marfa an art paradise? It certainly is if you know the right places to add to your itinerary! The town’s connection with art dates back to the 1970s when Donald Judd purchased a whole plot of land and added as much art as possible. This land turned into the Chinati Foundation and the Judd Foundation (more info to come on these spots below).
Now, this art destination is filled to the brim with hip art galleries, brightly-colored buildings, and funky cafes that serve vegan food. This town screams art, no matter where you look.
Places to Experience Art in Marfa:
As I’ve mentioned in My Ultimate Guide to Marfa, it’s not always easy to recognize the art galleries in Marfa. Many of them look like unassuming buildings or even cafes, but one step in, and you’ll be transported to a chic art gallery. Don’t be alarmed if some of them also serve food, expect the unexpected in Marfa!
The Chinati Foundation features some of the above-mentioned unassuming buildings. The setting for this foundation is an old military base which adds extra character to Donald Judd’s collection.
This contemporary art museum was founded by minimalist artist Donald Judd and features his 100 untitled works in mill aluminum and his 15 untitled works in concrete. You can see the 15 concrete pieces on a $15 self-guided tour. If you choose this self-guided tour, be prepared to walk along dirt paths with no shade to see these untitled pieces.
You can also tour Judd’s 100 untitled works in aluminum on the Chinati North Tour for $25. If you decide to do both, expect to spend an entire day at the foundation – there’s a lot to see.
The Chinati Foundation also exhibits other artists and my favorite art installation is Dan Flavin’s untitled (Marfa Project) which consists of large-scale fluorescent lights installed in 6 buildings on the Chinati Foundation’s campus.
A quick note on the Chinati Foundation – it’s only open Thursday through Saturday every week. So, if you have your heart set on this spot, make sure to visit during one of these days and make sure you purchase tickets in advance.
For any tour you choose, be advised that walking to the different buildings is outside with little to no shade, so please wear sunscreen and a hat, bring water, and wear appropriate shoes as the paths are either dirt or rock. I managed just fine in flat sandals, but they weren’t the easiest.
Even though Donald Judd owned both, the Judd Foundation provides a different vibe than the Chinati Foundation. Where the Chinati Foundation is a display of Judd’s artworks and other artists’ artworks, the Judd Foundation is a peek behind the scenes into his living space, art studio, and artwork. The Judd Foundation is in the middle of downtown Marfa and is located in an old print shop.
When exploring this spot, you’ll also have access to multiple buildings, including the Art Studio, Architecture Studio, Whyte Building, and Cobb House. No self-guided tour here; you’ll need to purchase your tickets ahead of time for a tour.
The Judd Foundation is great if you want to check out modern art and you’re on a time crunch; it only takes about two hours to tour this gallery. Marfa moves on a slower pace anyway, so when visiting, don’t expect to be rushing anywhere.
You can check out furniture, prints, and paintings at the Judd Foundation, created by Judd himself. There is also artwork by some well-known 1900s artists here, so you’ll see some different styles.
The Judd Foundation is one of the rare places in Marfa that is open on Mondays and Tuesdays, so if you happen to be in town on those days and you’re looking for something to do, you can tour the Judd Foundation.
I first learned about the town of Marfa thanks to the Prada Marfa store art installation. It’s located about 37 miles outside of Marfa, but worth a visit if you’re driving through or have the time.
It’s a cool place to stop for a bit, though you can snap a few photos and be on your way in about 10 minutes with its size. There’s no entry to this building on purpose; the artists didn’t want it to be used as a store. Though, it does look like a miniature Prada store from the outside and even has goods from Prada’s 2005 launch.
It’s a fun piece of art to see as you drive to or from Marfa!
Read More: Guide to Prada Marfa
Giant “Mural Billboards”
If you weren’t aware, Marfa has been the setting for multiple western movies, including the 1956 film Giant featuring James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor. These classic Hollywood stars even stayed at Hotel Paisano; one online search of the hotel, and you’ll see it announced everywhere!
In 2018, John Cerney decided to donate this giant mural (or should I say billboard artwork?) to Marfa. There are famous set pieces shown in this installation and giant billboards of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor.
This is another piece that you’ll see as you’re driving to Marfa, off of Highway 90. Stop by for some pictures and to hear the accompanying music that plays in the background. It was curated especially for this installation.
These galleries are anything but ordinary. They are created in Marfa’s kitschy, quirky style that you would expect to see when visiting. Here’s a quick list of the available Marfa galleries to explore.
Ballroom Marfa: This modern art gallery has new exhibits every six months, and it’s worth a stop. Ballroom Marfa offers mixed-media exhibits, including videos and standalone pieces.
Anne Marie Nafziger Studio: The Anne Marie Nafziger Studio features Anne Marie Nafziger’s colorful abstract pieces. You’ll need to schedule an appointment to view them in person.
Arber & Son Editions: Head to the Arber & Son Editions to see a variety of artwork bound in boxes by collection. Art is created through different printing methods, and the collection has been created by various artists (including Donald Judd).
Art Blackburn: This gallery specializes in collections from different cultures. For example, you’ll find a collection around Native American art and cowboy/western art.
Ayn Foundation (Das Maximum): This art gallery, in conjunction with Das Maximum, shows large-scale screenprints by Andy Warhol. The Ayn Foundation is open Fridays and Saturdays, though you’ll need an appointment for any other day.
Exhibitions 2D: Multiple reviewers labeled this as the best gallery in Marfa, with a super friendly owner. The minimalist artwork at Exhibitions 2D is centered around 10 artists creating sculptures and drawings.
Greasewood Gallery: The Greasewood Gallery is in the famous Hotel Paisano as one of its attractions. Shop for artwork made by locals in the form of sculptures, paintings, and more.
Inde/Jacobs Gallery: Even the building of this gallery is a work of art! It was designed to be minimalist, and inside you’ll find limited edition artwork and pieces centered on different materials.
Leana Clifton Studio & Gallery: Here’s another gallery that you’ll need to schedule an appointment for! Here, you’ll find a combination of larger and smaller mixed-media pieces that feature abstract trains running through Texas’ high desert.
Marfa Open: The Marfa Open is an extension of the Marfa Open Festival, which invites artists each year to collaborate and create new pieces while staying in town. The Marfa Open features works from up-and-coming artists in every medium, from paintings to sculptures and interactive pieces.
RULE Gallery: The RULE Gallery is a super cool spot with abstract and modern art from up-and-coming and mid-career artists. This art is housed in, well, a house, and it’s worth checking out.
New Star Grocery Art Museum: As you can probably guess from its name, this is one of the quirkier art galleries in Marfa. It has a collection of pieces from local artists, including paintings and masks, plus eight dogs that run around the museum (according to a reviewer).
Wrong: Wrong is both a store and art gallery that sells pieces from local artists. Their logo, “Get it at the Wrong Store in Marfa, Texas,” should tell you everything you need to know about this eclectic spot.
Marfa Book Company: This company publishes books, holds art exhibits, and offers patrons the option to purchase art-centric books, clothing, etc. While it used to be located inside the Hotel Saint George, it is now currently located inside the Freda shop.
Annual Art Festivals:
Art festivals are a great way to see what Marfa has to offer in a short amount of time. This quick list features some of the best annual art festivals in town.
Chinati Weekend: Chinati Weekend is similar to an open house at the Chinati Foundation building and runs for a weekend in October every year. You get to see the permanent collection, view rarely seen artwork, and attend a benefit dinner if you choose.
Marfa Invitational: This art fair features contemporary pieces from the top contemporary artists in the world. This event occurs at the beginning of May in Saint George Hall.
CineMarfa Film Festival: The CineMarfa Film Festival is unique in that it brings visual arts created by artists from galleries to Marfa. This festival held in Marfa’s Crowley Theater features documentaries, archival footage, experimental films, and more.
Viva Big Bend: The Viva Big Bend music festival travels around Texas with over 50 performers in different musical genres. The daytime shows are free, though you’ll have to purchase a ticket for evening performances.
Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love: This festival is held at the super photogenic El Cosmico annually and features music, vendors, food, workshops, and baseball. The Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love is meant to unite the community and spread love; it’s fun but can be a little out there for some.
Camp Cooking: For aspiring chefs – this weekend culinary workshop is for you! It’s led by Chef Lou Lambert, who combines Texas-style cooking with city-inspired gastronomy for a unique combination.
Marfa Studio of Arts
If you happen to visit any of the art installations or galleries during your trip, please consider donating to Marfa Studio of Arts. MSA is dedicated to children’s art education with arts programming in Marfa’s schools, art projects in the community, and sponsoring field trips to the local galleries and museums.
Looking for more things to do in Marfa? Read through my other Marfa posts to learn more!
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