"Playboy Marfa," the Magazine's Art Installation on Highway 90, Must Be Removed, State Says

The piece, as it was unveiled by Playboy.
The piece, as it was unveiled by Playboy.

Since it went up in late June, the giant Playboy logo alongside U.S. Highway 90 has stopped passersby and sparked debate in Marfa, the West Texas tourist town known for its modernist flair.

Now it has to come down, the state says.

The Texas Department of Transportation has ordered Playboy to remove the massive bunny within 45 days, since the company doesn't have a permit to advertise there and couldn't get one if it wanted. Playboy says it's art and plans to fight the order.

The piece, by Richard Phillips, includes a neon Playboy logo and a hollowed out Dodge Charger. It went up without fanfare, and with Playboy seemingly hoping to install it without much explanation. But that didn't last, reports the El Paso Times.

In a June 20 press statement, Playboy said Phillips would "spend the next several months reimagining the classic car through his artistic lens. His interpretation of the Dodge Charger will be revealed at the end of 2013."

Playboy has indicated the art installation is temporary.

Wakefield, commenting on the decision to locate the sculpture near Marfa, said: "As both an all-American roadside town and an art world mecca, Marfa occupies a particular place in the popular imagination.

"Marfa provides the perfect backdrop to launch an artist car collaboration with one of America's most iconic brands."

Landis Smithers, creative director at Playboy, described the project as "an indication of our commitment to creating moments that appeal to a younger, culturally engaged generation of men and women."

"As we reinvigorate Playboy through art and culture, Marfa was deemed the ideal location to reiterate to the world our commitment to art and design as it relates to the lifestyle Playboy represents today," Smithers said.

But locals aren't impressed. An accountant filed a complaint with the state, which led to the removal order. And a columnist in the local paper called the piece "the ugliest and most offensive structure that I have seen for a long time."

This story will be appear in the 2014 edition of the anthology Best American Writing About Playboy Art Installations That Doesn't Include the Word "Erect," published by Houghton Mifflin.

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