Hidden within the sprawling desertscape of far west Texas is the tiny town of Marfa: an unlikely meeting point for whisky-drinking cowboys and the art world jet set. When artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset’s iconic Prada Marfa materialized beside the nearby highway like some desert UFO back in 2002, Marfa rose to international prominence as an unsung cultural oasis. Truth is, this honky-tonk town has danced with the high arts since the mid-1970s, when the minimalist sculptor Donald Judd settled down in this dust-laden land, recasting it as an artistic haven.
Marfa today keeps close ties to the art magic Judd brought to town—its youngest resident artists stay true to the late sculptor’s mixed studio and stirrup-based practice—and a number of arts organizations and galleries dot the main street. Ballroom Marfa (est. 2003) is its crux, with a mixed program of visual art, film, music, and educational initiatives. A selection of video works by Detroit-based artist Jibade-Khalil Huffman is currently on show in Ballroom’s converted dance hall digs, as well as British artist Haroon Mirza’s mystical stone circle—a psychedelic solar powered Stonehenge— stationed on nearby ranchland.
Unfurling across the epic expanse of the Chinati Foundation is Donald Judd’s 15 untitled works in concrete (1980-1984), which visitors are free to roam (just make sure to check in first). Meanwhile, Robert Irwin’s quietly moving dawn til dusk (2016), Judd’s 100-strong army of aluminum works in the old artillery shacks, and Dan Flavin’s hallucogenic Marfa Project (1994) weigh in at $20 for a 2.5 hour guided tour, but are absolutely worth it for the art experience (and the Instagram points). For those chomping at the bit for Chinati, a 4.5 hour tour of the full collection is also on the menu. Squeezing in a visit to Prada Marfa is also an Insta requisite, no matter what.
Before setting off on your art safari, fuel up on breakfast tacos at Boyz 2 Men/Bad Hombres: a trailer eatery on Marfa’s main strip that serves up some serious sass behind the counter. Marfa Burrito is another unmissable cash-only locale, and perhaps the only Texmex joint to be certified by Matthew McConaughey, as a framed photograph next to the cash register proudly declares.
Where better to quench your thirst after a day of artspotting than a Western-style dive bar heralded over by Matthew McConaughey’s equally amicable long lost twin? A large neon ‘BEER’ sign outside the Lost Horse Saloon lures in weary curators and cowboys alike from Marfa’s main drag; inside, a pooch-friendly, pool game-stuffed tableaux awaits with $2 beers and the best micheladas in town.
For those seeking a bohemian dreamscape to lay their weary art-and-tequila filled heads, the magical realm of Texan hotel designer Liz Lambert’s El Cosmico is only a 10 minute stumble away. Dotted with pastel-hued trailers, fashionable teepees and yurts, as well as outdoor hot tubs to satisfy the most lux or minimalist glamping fantasies, Cosmico also allows more parsimonious campers to pitch their own tents for $20 a night. Don’t forget to pick up some bundled sage smudge, more booze or other provisions from their 24-hour canteen at check-in to make your stay in this desert paradise all the dreamier.