What has The Isle of Eigg and Marfa,Texas got in common?

I got a message the other day from my friend Lucy Conway inviting me to a meeting in Edinburgh. She wrote:

“As part of the evolving process to create an Eigg Box building that provides space for the island as well as visiting artists and creative types, Eigg Box has appointed WT Architecture to help us develop an architectural brief for the building. This brief will be included in a stage one application to Creative Scotland’s Capital Programme.

We have had various meetings on Eigg to find out what islanders want from the building, but as visiting artists are an important part of Eigg Box, we would like invite you – as someone who might come and use the building – to tell us know what you think too.”

I so wish I could be there. I think the Eigg Box is a really exciting project. 

“Eigg Box will be a cultural enterprise hub, bringing together local creative businesses with artists from around the world. 

Established as a self-sustaining social enterprise, Eigg Box will be a powerhouse of creative activity, entrepreneurship, inspiration and collaboration. However, unlike its urban counterparts, Eigg Box’s eco-built studios and creative workspace will be on the Isle of Eigg; a community-owned, renewably-powered island, off the north-west coast of Scotland with a population of less than 100.

Eigg Box turns on its head the notion that a centre of entrepreneurship and creativity needs to be at the centre of population. Eigg Box makes the remote central.”   Quoting from their web site

I only know about the project from what I have read on the website and the odd exchange of notes from Lucy Conway – but I really feel something special is happening on Isle of Eigg.

A remote community that will be at the centre of creating art that will soon be making a huge impact internationally.

Eigg Box makes the remote central

If I was at the meeting in Edinburgh I would be suggesting that the relationship with the local and the international should be central to the creation of the building.  I would be suggesting a residency of an exceptional international artist during the building phase  – creating art alongside the actual building process  – working with islanders to make something lasting that would contribute to the final look of the building. For my taste  a building  that feels contemporary, minimalist and  timeless.

Something like the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas 

Donald Judd

Not long ago I was in Marfa making a film. We stayed there for a couple of weeks and I got to know the place a little. It is strange and fantastic mixture of art and the dangerous world of “No Country For Old Men”.

I kept imaging I would bump into Javier Bardem.

Marfa is situated in the high desert of far West Texas in Presidio County, located between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park, with a population of  about 2000 – twenty times the population of The Isle of Eigg I know, but I think there is a model here to look at.

Donald Judd

In 1971,minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from New York City. After renting summer houses for a couple of years, he bought two large hangars and some smaller buildings and began to permanently install his art.

In 1976, he bought the first of two ranches that would become his primary places of residence, continuing a long love affair with the desert landscape surrounding Marfa. Later, with assistance from the Dia Art Foundation in New York, Judd acquired decommissioned Fort D.A. Russell, and began transforming the fort’s buildings into art spaces in 1979. Judd’s vision was to house large collections of individual artists’ work on permanent display, as a sort of anti-museum. Judd believed the prevailing model of a museum, where art is shown for short periods of time, does not allow the viewer an understanding of the artist or their work as they intended.

Donald Judd Marfa Texas

Since Judd’s death in 1994, two foundations have worked to maintain his legacy: the Chinati Foundation and Judd Foundation. Every year the Chinati Foundation holds an open house event where artists, collectors, and enthusiasts come from around the world to visit Marfa’s art. Since 1997, Open House has been co-sponsored by both foundations and attracts visitors from around the world. The Chinati Foundation now occupies more than 10 buildings at the site and has on permanent exhibit work by artists such as Ingólfur Arnarson, Dan Flavin, and Claes Oldenburg.

Of course what works in Marfa won’t necessarily work on Eigg, but there is something to be explored about the relationship with individual artists and remote communities. I have absolutely no doubt that Eigg Box will be an extraordinary place to visit and I hope to be there myself one day soon. We, who are engaged in the debate about the role of arts in the community should look at the Isle of Eigg with great interest. I think we will all learn a lot from the way they are creating space for people and art.





Leave a Reply