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Artillery shed containing 100 untitled works in mill aluminum by Donald Judd, 1982-86, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas. All photos by Ivan Gaskell.
One of 100 untitled works in mill aluminum by Donald Judd, 1982-86, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas.
One of 15 untitled works in concrete by Donald Judd, 1980-84, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas.
Interior of Donald Judd’s residence, The Block, 400 West El Paso Street, Marfa, Texas, Judd Foundation.
Warning sign, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas.

On November 4, I boarded a minivan with eight others at the El Paso Airport for the three-hour drive through the northern Chihuahuan Desert to the little town of Marfa, Texas. We were going there to attend a five-day retreat organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to discuss its Panza Collection.

Marfa was founded as a railroad watering stop. In 1973, sculptor Donald Judd (1928-1994) began buying property there, including a disused US Army base, to work undisturbed. His Chinati Foundation, our host, gathered and exhibits in depth his own work and that of fellow artists he admired. His family foundation, which looks after his studios and living spaces, also welcomed us.

Much of our time was spent in a converted army hut, with its door open to the view towards the distant mountains. Between 1991 and 1992, the Guggenheim acquired more than 300 Minimalist and Conceptual works from the Italian collector, Giuseppe Panza. The curator and conservator responsible for them, Jeffrey Weiss and Francesca Esmay, have researched many problematic items. We were in Marfa to discuss how to make that research public.

We also had time to visit the Chinati and Judd Foundation sites: arrays of sculpture by Judd and others, both outdoors and in former army and commercial buildings, and Judd’s residence and studios. The sublimity of Judd’s precisely impersonal constructions in steel, aluminum, or concrete in a vast, stark landscape where time decelerates would convert even a skeptic. We came away with a plan, and—if I am representative—with personal inspirations, too.

Ivan Gaskell, Professor, Curator and Head of the Focus Gallery Project