TxDoT: Playboy bunny sign must go
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
MARFA – The Texas Department of Transportation has ordered the removal of the neon Playboy bunny sign west of Marfa. According to a TxDoT spokesperson Tuesday, the property owner has 45 days to remove the sign.
The giant neon sign, part of an art and advertising roadside sculpture installed recently by the men’s magazine, was placed illegally, the highway department determined late last week.
Veronica Beyer, TxDoT Director of Media Relations, said in a Tuesday afternoon email that “the agency has ordered the property owner to remove this sign because the owner does not have a Texas License for Outdoor Advertising and a specific permit application for the sign was not submitted.
“Furthermore,” she wrote, “the location at which the sign has been placed does not qualify for a permit. TxDoT is treating this case like any other when someone has placed an outdoor advertising display without an active license and permit, and in an area that does not qualify for such permits. According the Order of Removal, the landowner has 45 days to remove the sign.”
TxDoT reached this decision after Marfa resident Lineaus Hooper Lorette filed a complaint on June 24 to the highway department.
In his complaint, Lorette cited that the outdoor advertisement was built without a permit and that no visible permit number is available as prescribed by law.
“It was determined that the sign is indeed an illegal sign,” wrote Gus Cannon of the Texas Department of Transportation’s Right of Way Division in Austin in a June 27 letter responding to Lorette’s complaint. “We are handling it through our process for addressing illegal signs.”
Playboy Marfa is both an art installation and rebranding campaign for the magazine, started in the early 1950s by Hugh Hefner, that features photographs of nude women. The installation is the work of artists Neville Wakefield and Richard Phillips. In addition to the large-scale neon bunny, a 1972 Dodge Charger sits atop a leaning concrete plinth, mirroring Donald Judd’s concrete sculptures at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa.
Playboy’s public relations firm, PR Consulting, had no comment when contacted this week, so it is unknown whether the rest of the installation would remain.
“New signage is hard to get in Texas,” Lorette said Monday. “That corporate logo is a sign and it has to go through the permitting process. I called the highway department, they said it had to have a permit number, and I filed a complaint. Texas has stringent outdoor advertising laws.”
The project fueled much discussion and debate locally, and caught the attention of news media and the art world from coast to coast.
Lorette, a Certified Public Accountant, said he has worked on outdoor advertising in the past and therefore has some knowledge into outdoor advertising licensing and permitting.
Asked why he pursued the complaint, Lorette said, “I didn’t do anything heroic,” adding that he was, “not out to get Playboy,” only that, “the rules have to apply to everybody.”