Artist Will Cotton and Brite Force founder Yvonne Force Villareal at the opening of Brite Force, Marfa. Photo Credit: Makenzie Goodman. Image courtesy Brite Force, Marfa.
Even if you’re not familiar with Yvonne Force Villareal, chances are you’ve seen her work.
More specifically, you’ve likely seen the iconic installations produced through one of the curatorial enterprises she co-founded. These include: the legendary Prada Marfa by the deliciously irreverent duo Elmgreen & Dragset; Ugo Rondinone’s mammoth totems of day-glo colored boulders outside of Las Vegas; and Tampa Fresh Foods, a grocery store composed of more than 50,000 domestic objects meticulously-crafted and hand-made out of felt by installation artist Lucy Sparrow, just to name a few.
To label these installations as contemporary touchstones within the long arc of art history is more than an understatement—they are among the most memorable, the most seductive, and, perhaps most importantly, the most ambitious contemporary artworks created thus far in the 21st century. Anyone who worships at the temple of contemporary art has likely made pilgrimage to one or more of the sites that bear her invisible signature.
Left: Elmgreen & Dragset, Prada Marfa. Image courtesy Art Production Fund. Right: Ugo Rondinone, Seven Magic Mountains. Image courtesy Art Production Fund.
Yvonne refers to herself as a “cultural entrepreneur.” However, she’s also, as the Germans say, a “multiplikator”—someone who, by sheer will and personal (forgive the pun) force, is able to turn one idea into a constellation of meanings, and one connection into an ecosystem of community-driven creativity. Her work is, at its core, propelled by one of modernity’s purest tenets: “art for art’s sake.” After graduating from RISD and working as, in her words, one of the “first ‘gallerinas’ (before the word existed),” she launched Yvonne Force Inc. in 1995, an art advisory that specialized in building and managing private collections and foundations.
In 2000, Yvonne co-founded Art Production Fund (APF), a non-profit organization “dedicated to commissioning and producing significant public art projects, reaching new audiences, and expanding awareness through contemporary art.” APF has backed projects across Manhattan such as Yoshitomo Nara’s meditative White Angel sculpture on Park Ave, Jeff Koons’ towering Seated Ballerina at Rockefeller Center, and Josephine Meckseper’s unsettling 25 ft-tall oil pumps, installed in a vacant NYC Times Square lot as a sardonic homage to the United States’ industrial decline.
“Together with co-founder Doreen Remen, we grew APF into an ambitious national program of outdoor installations,” Yvonne says. “Expanding on this practice, in 2014 we established Culture Corps together, a creative firm offering art consultancy, artist brand collaboration, and cultural programming services with the goal of creating opportunities for artistic expression and viewer participation.” This year, Yvonne added yet another byline to her repertoire—founder and curator of Brite Force, a new arts initiative based in Marfa, Texas.
Will Cotton, Rejection, 2022, oil on paper, 30 x 21 inches. Courtesy of the Artist.
Marfa has long been a mecca for iconoclastic artists. Donald Judd established his Chinati Foundation there, a museum dedicated to minimalist art. Married artists Christopher Wool and Charline von Heyl both keep studios there. The dusty desert town, which sits no less than 200 miles from the closest airport, is also home to Art Blocks, a generative art platform for artists working in digital and time-based mediums (Yvonne’s husband Leo has created mesmerizing generative art NFTs with Art Blocks, for example).
Brite Force launched in May 2022 to coincide with the Marfa Invitational, an art fair that is both bite-sized in scale and huge in terms of influence. Museum directors, jetset curators and major collectors all rolled into town for this year’s fair. Cynthia Rowley even launched a fashion presentation of cowgirls in hot pink tulle, sequins, and power suits atop galloping stallions—a surreal dreamscape of Wild West-meets-couture glamour that perfectly encapsulates the Brite Force ethos.
Following the launch of her new arts initiative, we asked Yvonne, a long-time Artwork Archive subscriber, five questions about what catalyzed her new endeavor, how Artwork Archive has empowered her along her journey, and what the future holds for the art world writ large. Here’s what we learned.
As a New Yorker, why establish a space in Marfa?
Brite Force is a personal passion project merging my career working in the art world and our own family history deeply rooted in Marfa dating back to the late 19th century. What makes this opportunity so unique is the fact that the Brite House has been passed down in my husband’s—Leo Villareal—maternal side of the family for over a century.
My hope is that the participating artists contemplate the history of the property and explore the remote Big Bend region and channel it into their creations. When presented, this new contemporary art layer will deepen the dialogue with the past and bring forth an energized perspective.
Installation shots of works by Will Cotton at Brite Force, Marfa. Photo Credits: Makenzie Goodman. Images courtesy Brite Force, Marfa.
Why did you choose Will Cotton as Brite Force’s inaugural artist?
Will Cotton and I go back decades and I have had the pleasure of working with him multiple times including when I invited him to Giverny for a residency program in 2002 that APF curated. I have always been a fan of Will’s fantastical work. He gained inspiration for his exhibition Will Cotton: Marfa while staying at the Brite House in August 2021.
To hone his understanding of the skills, sportsmanship, and rituals of ranch culture, Cotton ventured to the nearby town of Alpine to attend and document the Big Bend Ranch Rodeo. Using tools such as a machine to spin his staple pink cotton candy and to capture the breathtaking Chihuahuan Desert skyscape, Cotton transforms his experiences in far West Texas into a Western fairytale that is both fictitious and shockingly realistic.
What significance does the Brite House venue itself hold for you?
The Brite House in Marfa, Texas was established by Lucas Charles Brite and his wife, Eddie. Lucas Brite was a Big Bend rancher, arriving in 1885 and camping on Capote Peak while he founded a ranch, which is still in the family.
They lived on the ranch until 1902, when they moved to Marfa and purchased a one-story, L-shaped house—by 1917 they remodeled the small 1800’s adobe into a 16-room mansion overlooking an expansive pasture.
My husband, the artist Leo Villareal, is Lucas Brite’s great-great grandson. He acquired the house from the Brite Family Trust in 2014. He and I began a restoration by engaging architect Louis Yoh and interior designer Fernando Santangelo to bring to fruition our idea of remaining a family home while becoming an artistically stimulating space we could share with creative visionaries from around the world.
Brite Force offers the unique opportunity for artists to become part of the lasting Brite legacy. Not only acting as a powerhouse attracting art and diversity to Marfa but also as a home away from home.
Historical image of Brite House, Marfa. Image courtesy Brite Force, Marfa.
You’ve been a long-standing subscriber to Artwork Archive—How has Artwork Archive empowered your work and your art business?
After researching several platforms I selected to use Artwork Archive for my personal collection, family collection, and for my most important clients’ collections. I find the interface and sharing capabilities extremely clear.
My favorite part is how easy it is to share and export viewing rooms to interior designers, architects, or colleagues.
What does the future of art look like and how is it different from now?
Art will become increasingly recognized as a necessity. Extremes in what is public and private will be more defined. Public art and immersive experiences will grow by popular demand and Web3 will add a new space with new digital tools and techniques.
Developers and city planners will desire more public art as an important element for place making and memory making. While some art grows its platform and accessibility, other art “worlds" will become more privatized and unique works will increase in demand.
Brite Force, Marfa is open by appointment. To book a tour, visit briteforcemarfa.com and follow @BriteMarfa and @
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