Two architects, an artist, and an eccentric walk into a bar…
When you see Cadillac Ranch, you figure that had to be what happened. You picture these four guys bellied up, scrawling notes on bev naps as they down shots and shout “Dude, that’s it!” I mean, how else would you come up with an idea to take ten Cadillacs and bury them nose down and call it art?
Make no mistake – Cadillac Ranch IS art. It’s public art in a literal sense. Located off of I-40 just outside of Amarillo, Texas, it’s part of Route 66 lore and American legend. It’s been memorialized in movies, music, and in others’ art. It’s an anomaly, an attraction with no T-shirt. It’s a destination with no entrance fee. It’s on private land, but trespassers are welcome. Graffiti is not punished but encouraged – BYOSP (Spray Paint). It’s a canvas that’s painted over and over again and every time the artist gets it right.
Cadillac Ranch was installed in 1974 by architects Doug Michels and Chip Lord and artist Hudson Marquez, collectively known as Ant Farm. Founded in 1968 in San Francisco, the group was an “art agency that promotes ideas that have no commercial potential, but which we think are important vehicles of cultural introspection.” Their most famous work is actually made of vehicles, and shows the evolution of the tail fin over a period of fourteen years. That evolution is framed by the Texas horizon, tilted at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The installation was made possible by the funding of Amarillo millionaire Stanley Marsh 3 (Roman numerals are pretentious, donchaknow). The “irrelevant and silly proposition” appealed to him, and he paid for the cars and the artists.
In 1997 Cadillac Ranch was moved two miles west from its original location. It still sits on private land, visible from I-40 and inviting to all, just waiting for the next artists to make their mark.