Prada Marfa is a permanently installed sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, situated 1.4 miles (2.3 km) northwest of Valentine, Texas, just off U.S. Highway 90 (US 90), and about 26 miles (42 km) northwest of the city of Marfa. The installation was inaugurated on October 1, 2005. The artists called the work a "pop architectural land art project."
|Artist||Elmgreen and Dragset|
|Type||Adobe, plaster, paint, glass panes, aluminum frames, MDF, carpet|
|Dimensions||15 ft × 25 ft (4.6 m × 7.6 m)|
|Location||US 90, Valentine, Texas|
The sculpture, realized with the assistance of American architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, cost $120,000 and was intended to never be repaired, so it might slowly degrade back into the natural landscape. This plan was deviated from when, the night the sculpture was completed, vandals graffitied the exterior, and broke into the building stealing handbags and shoes.
Designed to resemble a Prada store, the building is made of "adobe bricks, plaster, paint, glass pane, aluminum frame, MDF, and carpet." The installation's door is nonfunctional. On the front of the structure there are two large windows displaying actual Prada wares, shoes and handbags, picked out and provided by Miuccia Prada from the fall/winter 2005 collection; Prada allowed Elmgreen and Dragset to use the Prada trademark for this work. Elmgreen and Dragset originally had wanted to place the sculpture elsewhere and was interested in a "Prada Nevada", but failed to find support in the state. They were then helped by the New York-based Art Production Fund (APF) which connected the artists with Ballroom Marfa in Marfa, Texas, a center of contemporary art and culture. The installation was then placed at a location northwest of Marfa near Valentine, Texas, where a local artist Boyd Elder served as caretaker for the installation.
Prada had already collaborated with Elmgreen and Dragset in 2001 when the artists attached signage to the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York City with the (false) message "Opening soon—PRADA". Prada Marfa is located relatively close to Donald Judd's Chinati Foundation. The minimalism of Prada's usual displays that are mimicked in this work play off the minimalism that Judd is known for as an artist. The site-specific of Prada Marfa invites for a comparison with other art movements such as minimalism and land art, which are equally dependent on the site where they are placed. Prada Marfa relies almost entirely on its context for its critical effect. The "sculptural Intervention" can be interpreted as criticism of consumerism, luxury branding and gentrification, but whether intentionally or not, it reinforces the capitalist values it criticizes. Therefore, this work of art experienced a change of meaning and gained an ambivalent moment, that the artists did not expect. Along a ledge that runs around the base of the building, hundreds of people have left business cards, weighed down by small rocks.
The night that Prada Marfa officially debuted, the installation was vandalized. The building was broken into, its contents (six handbags and 14 right footed shoes) were stolen, and the word "Dumb", as well as the phrase "Dum Dum", were spray painted on the sides of the structure. The sculpture was quickly repaired, repainted, and restocked. The new Prada purses do not have bottoms and instead hide parts of a security system that alerts authorities if the bags are moved. The direct physical relationship between the sculpture and the viewers achieved extensive local and international press coverage.
The exhibition was again vandalized in March 2014. The structure was painted light blue, hung with fake logos for Toms Shoes from the awnings, and posted with a political manifesto on the door. Ballroom Marfa issued a statement decrying the vandalism and pledged to restore the site. A Texas artist, 32-year-old Joe Magnano (using the pseudonym 9271977) was subsequently arrested and tried. Magnano pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor criminal mischief and agreed to pay Ballroom Marfa $10,700 in restitution as well as a $1,000 fine.
Response from Texas Department of TransportationEdit
The installation that remained unnoticed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) until 2013, when Playboy erected a 40-foot-tall (12 m) neon bunny nearby along the same stretch of road, which attracted the attention of TxDOT to both installations. TxDOT considered both the Playboy neon bunny and the Prada sign on the Prada Marfa installation to be advertisements, and permits are required to display such signs along a US highway on unlicensed land according to the 1965 Highway Beautification Act. Both installations do not fit the permitted specifications for billboards, and a demand to remove the neon bunny was issued by the TxDOT, but no immediate decision was made for Prada Marfa. Michael Elmgreen commented on the suggestion that Prada Marfa is an illegal advertisement for Prada. He stated: "There is no company behind the artwork. It was not commissioned by Prada [...] They never, ever asked me to do advertisement for them." In September 2014, TxDOT officials announced that the structure would be reclassified as a museum, with the Prada Marfa as its only exhibit. This action exempts the structure from the same signage rules that forced the removal of the neon bunny installed by Playboy magazine.
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