Silly rabbit

Controversial Playboy Marfa bunny hops from West Texas to Dallas

Controversial Playboy Marfa bunny hops from West Texas to Dallas

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

Critically inclined Marfans 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 art gallery.

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 hollow, 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 Dallas Contemporary agrees, as it will feature Playboy Marfa as part of Phillip’s upcoming exhibition, which opens Friday, April 11, 2014, and runs through August 24. It is the artist’s first one-man museum show in the United States.

The work, originally commissioned by Neville Wakefield and Landis Smithers, Playboy’s team in charge of reviving the brand for a younger generation, will undergo installation in late March, just in time for the Dallas Art Fair and Dallas Arts Week. 

Says Peter Doroshenko, the Contemporary’s executive director, “With the long and significant history Richard Phillips has had with Dallas since the mid-1990s, it is exciting that Dallas Contemporary is organizing his first museum exhibition in the United States. The exhibition will include the large-scale work, Playboy Marfa, which was installed roadside outside of Marfa, Texas.

“A seminal artist of our time, Phillips is constantly examining popular culture from found imagery or carefully selected image constructions. His paintings deal with ideas, identity, sexuality, desires and social positioning. Having this exhibition in Dallas is long overdue.”