An Insider’s Guide to Marfa

Photographer Douglas Friedman kicks back in his adopted second home in the famed Texan art hub

As told to ELIZABETH VARNELL
Photography by DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN

Douglas Friedman’s photographs, which have appeared in Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar, depict some of the most exquisite interiors and seductive destinations in the world. Now the New York native, who spends part of each year at his West Texas ranch, is a founding board member for the first annual Marfa Invitational. Friedman and fair founder and artist Michael Phelan of Marfa’s United Artists Ltd. gallery — along with an advisory board that includes artist David Salle and gallerist Melissa Bent — have selected 10 emerging and established galleries to display works in the remote town’s Saint George Hall April 4-7. The international art show is slated to double the population of the art hub, which is already home to works by Donald Judd and the famed Prada Marfa sculpture by Elmgreen and Dragset, just off Highway 90. Here are Friedman’s must-visits when he’s in town.


 

I first arrived on a Monday in the middle of July six years ago. The streets were empty, the galleries closed, and it was raining. After I left, I couldn’t stop thinking about this desert town or watching Giant, the epic 1956 James Dean film shot outside the West Texas city limits. I immediately returned with friends who were renovating a house there and spent an afternoon falling in love with the town, whose population remains slightly fewer than 2,000 residents. Trailer parks, cowboys, tumbleweeds, rattlesnakes — the energy here is invigorating. A day later I became a landowner. 

Weeks begin slowly in Marfa — most everything is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays — but it all comes alive each weekend. I love to cook, but the food here is so good it’s hard to want to. Each morning I head to Do Your Thing (doyourthing.us) for pour-over coffee in a former lumberyard that a couple friends of mine took over. They’re meticulous about the coffee, the type of milk and the temperature of everything, and they do incredible sourdough with local honey and nut butter. Lifting at Ironheart Bodybuilding and Fitness (facebook.com/ironheartgym.tx), a proper gym in an old Masonic temple, sets me up for the day.

Bad Hombres (facebook.com/boyz2menmarfa) has a Don Ho burger (complete with pineapple) for lunch, or I’ll get falafel at Adam Bork and Krista Steinhauer’s roving truck, Food Shark (facebook.com/foodsharkmarfa). Stars (instagram.com/stars.marfa), a literal window in a wall, fries up homemade doughnuts and chicken, and if you’re lucky enough to find the elusive Weinertown, they serve amazing hot dogs. For dinner it’s foie gras and oysters, and Fritos with caviar at philanthropist Virginia Lebermann’s restaurant Capri, adjacent to her impeccable 1950s-era renovated Thunderbird Hotel (thunderbirdmarfa.com). My drink is a rocks-and-salt margarita — I’m a bit of a purist.

Wandering through town, you get a sense of just how isolated you are. Time slows down here as wild boars, bobcats and antelope roam free in the dusty Chihuahuan desert where Donald Judd founded his 340-acre Chinati Foundation (chinati.org) devoted to minimalist masterworks. There are lots of subtleties to the town. There are dozens of art galleries, including Ballroom Marfa (ballroommarfa.org) and the Judd Foundation (juddfoundation.org) studios. You don’t want to rush in Marfa. Give in to it and see what’s revealed. marfainvitational.com

This story originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of C magazine.

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