Playboy art installation goes up near Marfa
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
MARFA – Playboy Enterprises Inc. has begun installing a large-scale sculpture on the outskirts of Marfa, but mystery surrounds the motives behind the installation.
A 20-foot by 13-foot neon sign, in the shape of the iconic Playboy Bunny logo, can be seen at the installation site, just west of the Marfa city limit on U.S. 90.
The Big Bend Sentinel/BigBendNow recently obtained documents from Presidio County, which were filed by Playboy Enterprises. The multimedia corporation applied for a certificate of compliance under the county’s subdivision regulations for new electrical service, presumably to light the giant neon Bunny.
Caitlin Bower, Playboy’s head of special projects, signed off on the affidavit requesting the new utility service.
When contacted this week, Bower referred all questions to a public relations firm that is working on the project.
James Volpe, a consultant with the New York City-based firm, PR Consulting, declined to comment about the project at present. The firm’s website lists Playboy, among many other fashion, entertainment and lifestyle corporations, as one of its clients.
According to the documents filed with the county, Playboy is leasing about 6,500 square feet of land from the Bob Eppenauer Eppco LTD ranch.
According to Presidio County Judge Paul Hunt’s office, writer, curator and artist Neville Wakefield is working on the temporary installation. The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter identify Wakefield, who was the curator for a Ballroom Marfa exhibition in 2011, as Playboy’s new creative director of special projects.
Bill Wren, special assistant to the superintendent at McDonald Observatory, confirmed this week that he has been in contact with individuals working on the project.
“I spoke with a couple of the artists planning to do this,” Wren said. “They did take the dark sky ordinance into concern. They had the manufacturer do the design to have shielding to keep it from shining up.”
Wren said that with Presidio County’s approval and especially with the temporary nature of the project, the observatory gave them the ok.
“It’s not fully dark sky friendly. It’s largely dark sky friendly,” Wren said. “Being temporary, I think most folks are willing to cut them some slack. If it were permanent, it would be problematic. It would be an easy enough thing to remedy and since they took the willingness to call the observatory, we decided we didn’t want to make a big stink.”