Chinati Foundation to expand visitor access in 2023 

Donald Judd, 100 untitled works in mill aluminum, 1982–86. Permanent collection, The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas. Photo by Alex Marks, courtesy The Chinati Foundation. Donald Judd Art © 2023 Judd Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

MARFA — This year, the Chinati Foundation will host additional open hours and gradually make more of its spaces accessible for self-guided viewing in an effort to further share the site’s artworks, buildings and land with patrons.

In a reversal of its scaled-back schedule and offerings adopted during the pandemic, the museum plans to once again be open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, starting in April and to allow visitors paying the basic entrance fee of $15 to gain entry onto not only the grounds and Donald Judd’s outdoor installation 15 untitled works in concrete, but indoor exhibitions as well. 

Visitor Services Manager Julie Carey said she was excited to be able to expand opportunities for guests to spend time with and learn about Chinati’s collection and its unique location at the historic Fort D.A. Russell. Plus, the increased offerings could help visitors gain a greater understanding of what Chinati is all about, she said.

“While the experience of visiting Chinati and its grounds and seeing the outdoor works — the way the work and the landscape form this relationship along with the architecture — create this cohesive experience, being able to be inside of the spaces really solidifies the intention of Donald Judd, and what he was trying to do here more completely,” said Carey. 

The initiative begins this month, with the opening of the two artillery sheds which house Donald Judd’s 100 untitled works in mill aluminum, that all paying visitors will be able to access between the hours of 12 and 3 p.m. The spaces will be staffed with visitor services associates who will protect the artwork and answer questions. 

Curator Ingrid Schaffner said the artillery sheds, which are large, airy and allow for many occupants, yet also house some of the foundation’s most sensitive artworks, were ultimately chosen for increased access because of the installation’s importance to understanding the collection as a whole. 

“It is the epic core of Chinati. Whether you’re inside or outside of the building, you understand that relationship between art, architecture and the land; it’s just so embodied by that work,” said Schaffner. 

Later this year in March, visitors will be able to access the artillery sheds from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the six army barracks containing Dan Flavin’s untitled (Marfa project) from 1 to 3 p.m. and untitled (dawn to dusk), the site-specific installation by Robert Irwin, from 3 to 5 p.m. Carey said the schedule is still evolving, but those sites were chosen because they are of common interest to Chinati guests. The newly-restored John Chamberlain building in downtown Marfa could potentially be included in the open viewing program in the future, she said. 

The foundation is seeking to grow its visitor services team in conjunction with the increased accessibility of its sites and is currently hiring visitor services associates and docents. 

Museum visitation, which averaged around 30,000 guests in 2018 and 49,000 plus guests in 2019, dipped significantly during the pandemic, but is steadily strengthening, back up to 23,000 visitors in 2022, according to Carey. Along with the fluctuating numbers, Carey said visitor services staff are continually adjusting to a change in visitor demographics, which has lately included more Marfa-focused, less art-focused visitors. 

“Marfa used to be very much an art destination, whereas now it’s kind of just a destination where folks come and go, ‘So what’s here?’” said Carey. 

“We encourage them to have a look around and experience what the artists who have come here [have created] and hopefully make some connection with that. Then maybe when they leave, they will perhaps consider Marfa an art destination,” said Carey. 

It’s a matter of balancing the aspects of sharing information and educating museum patrons on the work of Judd and Chinati’s other artists, while also facilitating free exploration for individuals regardless of their previous knowledge of Judd or the art world, said Carey and Schaffner. 

“If I go to the national park, I don’t need to know what kind of tree it is, or what the geological formation or time[scale] is. I feel confident to be there and appreciate and enjoy,” said Schaffner. “That seems a goal here, to be able to instill that same confidence, curiosity and awe at what is here.” 

Schaffner said she thinks of museums as “a space to be with art and other people” and is looking forward to the flow of more visitors to the grounds traveling in and out of buildings, similar to the vibe of the museum’s open weekend, Chinati Weekend, which is slated to take place from Friday, October 6, to Sunday, October 8, 2023. The museum will also host a free Community Day on Saturday, May 13. 

“Ranch gate is open!” said Schaffner. 

For more information, visit chinati.org/.