Marfa Invitational art fair welcomes the public after yearlong hiatus

MARFA – Marfa Invitational is bringing a slate of contemporary art to town starting today, with an emphasis this year on immersing viewers into the art “in real life,” fair founder Michael Phelan said. It’s the first major public event in town after more than a year of cancellations of some of Marfa’s most popular gatherings, and promises to gather gallerists and art collectors from around the globe, along with welcoming in the local public.

The event’s exhibitions, artists’ projects and talks are free and open to the public, with a full schedule printed in this week’s edition of The Big Bend Sentinel.

After the successful launch of Marfa Invitational in 2019, Phelan scheduled the next event for April 2020, but with coronavirus bearing down on the country, it was postponed to August 2020, before finally being pushed to April 2021.

After a yearlong hiatus, Phelan says “human connection, along with our relationship to and with art, is more relevant than ever.”

“I often refer to Marfa Invitational as the ‘antidote to the quotidian,’” said Phelan, calling the fair “a response to the traditional mega art fair model that we have become accustomed to.” And Marfa Invitational does look different than the standard fair. The sterile, white-painted booths that are typical at fairs across the globe are instead replaced by raw wood walls raised within the Saint George Hall. In a town where natural materials and landscape are celebrated, Phelan said their aim is to provide “a truly singular platform for viewing today’s leading contemporary artists – at once immersive and transportive,” and “among the unique and historied backdrop that is Marfa.”

But bringing together international clientele and dealers means extra safety precautions too. The fair has requested that all visitors to Marfa Invitational 2021 be fully vaccinated. The Saint George Hall venue will have its 16-foot roll-up doors open during exhibition hours and masks will be required at all exhibitions and events.

Phelan, a Marfa resident, is steeped in decades of work in the art world, first as an artist and later as an exhibitor. Having seen art in the same contexts repeatedly: the brick-and-mortar white-walled galleries and traditional art fairs, Phelan struck out to find a different way.

For its third year and second event, Marfa Invitational is bringing in an international roster of galleries that range from emerging to blue chip. 

Marfa Invitational takes place Thursday, April 22, to Sunday, April 25. Marfa Invitational will also host a Saturday night outdoor exhibition of works by JPW3 with Night Gallery at the future permanent home of Marfa Invitational Foundation, at Highway 90 and Golf Course Road from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.