When Marfa Volunteer Fire Department Chief Gary Mitske arrived at the Judd Foundation offices in Marfa, Texas, shortly after 12:30 p.m. Friday, smoke in a building “could have come out of nowhere,” he said.
The fire broke out at Donald Judd’s office in the two-story red brick building in the small desert town where Judd, the pioneer of minimalism, lived and worked after leaving the New York art scene in the 1970s. He died in 1994. Fortunately, the office was empty: Judd’s architectural models, drawings, furniture and other design items were relocated as part of one. three year renewal of space which was to end on July 3.
“It’s in a sad state,” Mitske said, noting that the roof had “collapsed significantly” and that large parts of the second floor were burned.
The blaze raged for more than 12 hours before a team of about a dozen volunteer firefighters brought the blaze under control around 1:30 p.m. No injuries were reported, and no artifacts or objects were damaged. The cause is unknown, Mitske said, and an investigation is underway. The building had a state-of-the-art sprinkler system that was a week away from hooking up.
The foundation, which has offices in both Manhattan and Marfa, said in a statement that it will rebuild – no matter how long it takes.
“It’s a blow, not a defeat,” Flavin Judd, the artist’s son and artistic director of the Judd Foundation, which oversees Judd’s living and working spaces in Marfa, said in an email Monday. “While it will take double the effort, we will restore it and open it up.”
While the fire destroyed much of the building’s interior, the plan is to stabilize the rest of the structure and see what can be saved, Flavin Judd said.
In 1990, Donald Judd purchased what was known as the Glasscock Building as an office for his architectural practice.
Inside were furniture and objects he designed, as well as plans and models for projects such as Bahnhof ost Basel and Eichholteren, his former residence in Switzerland. The building next door, the architecture studio owned by Judd, serves as the gallery space.
The architecture firm of SCHAUM/SHIEH is working with the foundation on plans for buildings in Marfa and to catalog, assess and plan the preservation of Judd’s heritage and impact.
“The building is a unique piece of Marfa history and one of the oldest intact buildings in the city of Marfa,” Troy Schaum, the firm’s founding partner and an associate professor of architecture at Rice University School of Architecture, said in a statement. That teams of craftsmen have worked for many years to restore almost every feature of the building.
“While we are grateful that there was no loss of life,” he said, “it is also heartbreaking to see that the care and love of the craft is accomplished so quickly in an instant.”
The Architecture Office closed in 2018 for renovations in the first phase of the foundation’s restoration plan, which will eventually restore six structures on the Marfa campus in three phases. The first phase, which also includes part of the compound known as a block, is expected to cost about $2 million. The first floor of the office should be open to the public.
Flavin Judd told The New York Times in 2018 that he and his sister, Rainer, are committed to the plan because Marfa is “one of the only places where you can see Don’s work as it was meant to be seen.”
“A work in a museum is not the same in itself,” he said.
Donald Judd, best known for his “Jud Box”, was a master manipulator of seemingly simple containers whether he stood on the floor or stood on the walls.
just before the pandemic, The Museum of Modern Art staged a retrospective According to a review by Holland Couture, co-chief art critic for The New York Times, Judd, an artist who existed “on a small art planet”, was far from a market-managed present.
“His art once considered too serious to be beautiful (or perhaps to be art) can now be seen to offer pleasure, visual and conceptual, which any viewer with open eyes can relate to, And young actors can even shoot maybe,” wrote Kotor.
In recent years, Jude sites in Marfa have become a popular pilgrimage site for art lovers.
“I hope they can rebuild,” said Buck Johnston, a Marfa City Council member who owns a shop next to Judd’s office. “It was just this exquisite example of historic preservation, and now it’s gone.”