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Inside Marfa Invitational — Showcasing a Vibrant Art Scene in the West Texas Oasis

Day Tripping for the Marfa Magic

On a rainy morning in Austin, art enthusiasts boarded Commodore Perry Estate‘s private jet before sunrise, bound for the Marfa Invitational in West Texas.

Austin’s authentic luxury adventurers conceived the trip, while Ellis Force Art Partners organized the art-filled extravaganza.

The event celebrated the opening day of the Marfa Invitational, showcasing the town’s vibrant art scene.

With over 30 galleries in two square miles, tours, talks and previews comprised an impressive lineup for the day.

Marfa InvitationalMORE: A Peek Into the Past of the Commodore Perry Estate

Chinati Foundation Kicks It Off

After touching down at the regional airport, the group set its sights on the Marfa art scene.

The first destination on the itinerary was the Chinati Foundation. Founded in the 1980s by artist Donald Judd, it sits on a 340-acre former military base, honoring art and land in Marfa.

Chinati Foundation Marfa InvitationalThe group privately toured the Chinati grounds of gently refurbished buildings scattered around the property.

Each building contained works from the foundation’s art collection, including some of Judd’s most notable work.

Rows of rectangular metal structures lined the inside of the property’s old artillery sheds. Massive windows dotted the walls, bringing in the light and earth to play with permanence and context.

Dan Flavin’s installation of fluorescent light in six of the old barracks fueled viewers’ musings on landscape and flow. 

Buzzy Ballroom Marfa

The next stop was Ballroom Marfa, a 1920s dance hall converted into a globally renowned, non-collecting art museum. It is known for empowering visual artists and musicians by commissioning site-specific and location-inspired work.

On view at Ballroom Marfa during the town’s buzziest art month was Kenneth Tam’s “Tender is the hand which holds the stone of memory.” It included an installation of sculptures made of earth from the surrounding land. 

Marfa Invitational

Cochineal’s Culinary Feast

No visit to Marfa is complete without some free time exploring the picturesque town center. Following a stop in curated boutiques Communitie and WRONG, the group had a private lunch at chic eatery Cochineal.

 The James Beard-lauded team opened the restaurant exclusively for the estate’s group. It served a mouth-watering and innovative six-course meal.

The West Texas and Spanish-inspired dishes included paella, rabbit croquettes and locally grown vegetables.

Chef Alexandra Gates and her co-owner husband James Harkrider showed off their innovative culinary talents. These talents are attracting a new wave of gastronomic influence into the area. 

MORE: Austin Welcomes Luminaire from Six-Time James Beard-Nominee

Cochineal at the Marfa InvitationalGrace Weaver’s Private Preview

One of the tour’s most coveted stops was a private, first-access preview of Grace Weaver’s showcase of work. It was created from her residency at Hetzler | Marfa.

Following solo exhibitions in London and Berlin, Weaver reflected on her time spent in the far west. She mused on moments of solitude and grand scale.

With giant brushstrokes, her signature characters created a choreographic effect. These relatable portraits depicted modern women in everyday moments, balancing the mundane and the profound aspects of life.

Weaver walked the group of giddy fans through her never-before-seen show. She spoke casually about her debut show during the pinch-me Marfa moment. 

Marfa InvitationalMarfa Invitational’s Main Event

A short distance from the Hetzler | Marfa outpost was Maintenant, a newly established local art space showcasing diverse creators’ works.

The group snacked on charcuterie and champagne while wandering among sculptures by Matt Scobey and Carlos García-Noriega Bueno. 

The private opening soiree kicked off a star-studded weekend of art-filled celebrations. Cynthia Rowley, Ted Flato and Suzanne Deal Booth led events.

At the main event, Marfa Invitational’s annual art fair — ten galleries from around the world — featured up-and-coming work from a global set of artistic talent.

St. George Hall, adjacent to the renowned hotel, showcased art by Mark Whalen, Cindy Phoenix, Peter Halley and others. It drew art enthusiasts from Texas and beyond.

Marfa InvitationalUnscripted moments throughout the trip honored the promise for once-in-a-lifetime tour of art.

During the VIP reception, art critic and New York Magazine columnist Jerry Saltz mingled with the group. He shared the witty musings that make him a beloved art icon. 

After a full day and a smooth return to Austin, the group disembarked, reinvigorated and inspired by unparalleled art experiences.