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'Playboy Marfa' Heads East

Controversial Playboy Marfa bunny-hops from West Texas to Dallas museum

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Playboy Marfa by Richard Phillips
Playboy Marfa, which was installed in June along Highway 90, is leaving for Dallas in the spring. Photo by Adrian Gaut
Artist Richard Phillips
Richard Phillips created Playboy Marfa. Photo courtesy of Richard Phillips Studio and Gagosian Gallery
Playboy Marfa Richard Phillips at dusk
Playboy Marfa was up for less than a month before the Texas Department of Transportation demanded Playboy dismantle it. Photo by Adrian Gaut
Playboy Marfa by Richard Phillips
Artist Richard Phillips
Playboy Marfa Richard Phillips at dusk

Some protective Marfan art-lovers and the Texas Department of Transportation can breathe a big sigh of relief. Artist Richard Phillip’s controversial Playboy Marfa sculpture is on its way to a new destination: the Dallas Contemporary.

The work, which plays homage to 1970s American culture, landed on Highway 90 this summer and quickly stirred up a tempest in a West Texas teapot. Residents felt the 40-foot-tall neon Playboy logo hovering over a stylized 1972 Dodge Charger fell under the aegis of a corporate advertisement, rather than a true work of art. It wasn’t long before the Texas Department of Transportation deemed it illegal and gave Playboy 45 days to dismantle it.

But Phillips, who cited Donald Judd as a huge influence in the construction of the work, which also features a Juddian concrete rectangle, views Playboy Marfa and its signature bunny as “a beacon, a touchstone where all these different aspects of our lives — art, politics, sex — come together without contradiction.”

The work, originally commissioned by Neville Wakefield and Landis Smithers, Playboy’s team in charge of reviving the brand for a younger generation, will be installed in The Dallas Contemporary in late March and will be part of  Phillip’s upcoming exhibition there, which opens April 11. 

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