Despite being set three hours away from the nearest major airport, the dusty town of Marfa sees a steady stream of international visitors, drawn by the Chinati Foundation, a museum founded by the artist Donald Judd, and by the hyped-up coverage of Elmgreen and Dragsets Prada Marfa, a faux boutique-cum-art installation set in a lonely stretch of desert. But Marfa encompasses much more than these two stops, and it has evolved into an unexpectedly sophisticated destination, populated by quirky individuals who remain committed to a quasi-utopian ideal of creative community.
Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, Chinati, with work from blue-chip names like Dan Flavin, Carl Andre and John Chamberlain, in addition to Judds monumental stainless steel and concrete works, remains the main attraction. A new installation by Hiroshi Sugimoto of miniature crystal pagodas, titled Five Elements, is on display until mid-summer. Downtown Marfa has plenty to offer as well, and culture lovers can avail themselves of an art-centric bookstore, several galleries, the Marfa Book Co., tours of Donald Judds former studios and home, and Ballroom Marfa, a contemporary arts space currently exhibiting the Neville Wakefield-curated show Autobody.
For a town of around 2000, the restaurant selection isnt shabby - exceptional options include the award-winning Cochineal, from the former owners of the Michelin-starred NY hotspot, Etats-Unis, Tom Rapp and Toshi Sakihara, as well as Jetts Grill at the Hotel Paisano, and the Food Shark food truck, which serves Mediterranean-meets-West Texas fare. Two accommodations stand out - the Hotel Paisano, which has hosted film stars like Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, exudes a rustic glamour, while the Thunderbird, part of Texan hospitality guru, Liz Lamberts mini-empire of boutique hotels, puts a slightly ironic, minimal spin on motel living.Theres even a small selection of artisanal shops, including Fancy Pony Lands wild neo-western wear, Moonlight Gemstones jewelry, often crafted from local stones and artist Mike Biancos pottery studio, Mud, where you can pick up unique tableware. Marfas in-the-middle-of-nowhere location requires a big time investment from would-be tourists, but paraphrasing the towns tourism ads, MARFA: Tough to get to, But once you get here...you get it. - Sameer Reddy