The Chinati Foundation/La Fundación Chinati is a contemporary art museum in Marfa, Texas, based upon the ideas of its founder, Donald Judd. The specific intention of Chinati is to preserve and present to the public permanent large-scale installations by a select group of artists. The emphasis is on works in which art and the surrounding land are inextricably linked. As Judd wrote in his “Statement for the Chinati Foundation” (1987):
It takes a great deal of time and thought to install work carefully. This should not always be thrown away. Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved again. Somewhere a portion of contemporary art has to exist as an example of what the art and its context were meant to be. Somewhere, just as the platinum-iridium meter guarantees the tape measure, a strict measure must exist for the art of this time and place.
The Chinati Foundation is located on 340 acres of land on the site of former Fort D.A. Russell in Marfa, Texas. In 1978, with financial support from the Dia Art Foundation, Judd began repairs and renovations to the fort’s historic buildings, followed by the fabrication and installation of artwork. Chinati opened to the public in 1987 as an independent, nonprofit museum. Today, Chinati is supported through the generosity of our donors and members.
Judd’s original concept for the museum centered on his own artwork and work by Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain. Chinati’s permanent collection includes Judd’s 15 outdoor works in concrete and 100 works in mill aluminum in two converted artillery sheds; Dan Flavin’s installation of colored fluorescent light in six former barracks buildings; and John Chamberlain’s 25 sculptures in a renovated wool warehouse in downtown Marfa. Judd later expanded the collection to include works by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Richard Long, Roni Horn, David Rabinowitch, Ilya Kabakov, and Ingólfur Arnarsson. Following Judd’s death in 1994, the museum completed additional projects: installation of poems by Carl Andre (1995); a gallery of paintings by John Wesley (2004); and Robert Irwin’s untitled (dawn to dusk) (2016).
Public tours and viewing of the collection, the conservation of the artworks, education programs, artists’ residencies, special exhibitions, lectures, performances, and publications are all vital facets of Chinati’s mission. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, twelve months a year.
Donald Judd’s concept of a museum in which art, buildings, and the natural environment form a unity sets Chinati apart as a unique and pioneering institution. It has had a profound impact on the town of Marfa, which has developed an international reputation as a destination for art.