Playboy Sparks A Debate Between Art, Advertising In West Texas
July 26, 2013
Maya Sanchez
Artist Richard Phillips created this work for Playboy Enterprises just outside the small West Texas town of Marfa.

As part of a mission to reinvigorate its image, Playboy Enterprises commissioned an art installation outside a remote West Texas town. But due to current zoning laws, the display may have a short-lived future.

There's not much to look at outside Marfa, Texas, with the exception of spiraling dust devils. Once a railroad and mining hub, the small town of 2,400 has become a destination for contemporary art and its creators. The latest display is a 40-foot tall Playboy bunny logo created by artist Richard Phillips just outside town along U.S. Highway 90.

"I have neighbors that think its the work of the devil," said Lineaus Lorette, a local accountant. "They are really offended that their town would be used to market Playboy."

Lorette filed a complaint against the Playboy display with the Texas Department of Transportation shortly after it first went up in June. The installation includes a dark 1972 Dodge Charger mounted on an angled platform.

The Texas Department of Transportation responded by saying the display was advertising and thus violates current zoning laws. They have ordered it be removed by Aug. 5.

Playboy disagrees, saying the work is strictly an expression of the artist they commissioned.

A representative for Playboy Enterprises issued a statement that read, "We do not believe that the art installation by Richard Phillips violates any laws, rules or regulations. Our legal counsel is currently looking into this matter and we hope to resolve this issue satisfactorily and as quickly as possible."

Meanwhile, the display is popular with tourists like Houston photographer Ashley Patranella. She and her husband stopped to see the bunny logo on a recent road trip.

"I think it's cool and edgy and interesting and I think it should stay," Patranella said. "The most interesting art is stuff that makes you think and reflect and come up with your own reasoning behind it."

The Texas Department of Transportation is also looking into whether another installation, just outside Valentine, also violates zoning laws. The installation went up in 2005 and is a small building modeled after a Prada boutique.