Prada Marfa is located 1.5 miles northwest of Valentine, Texas, off US Highway 90 and around 26 miles northwest of the city of Marfa. It’s an installed sculpture created by artists Elmgreen and Dragset. It was inaugurated on October 1, 2005, and the artists call it a “pop architectural land art project.”
The sculpture’s inspiration came about as the artists were watching the encroaching gentrification of Chelsea, whereby they hung two signs reading “Prada… coming soon” on the window of an art gallery. It was a playful poke at the consumerism that follows popularity. However, the signage caught the eye of Yvonne Force Villareal and Doreen Remen, who used their Texan Ballroom Marfa base for their nonprofit Art Production Fund to bring Prada Marfa into existence.
The sculpture, which by all appearances has the facade of a functioning Prada store, exists in, essentially, the middle of nowhere. The message and point of the piece is to once again highlight the frivolity and vapid pointless state of modern day consumerism. Prada themselves seem to have a sense of humor at least, and have leant their trademark to the art installation; they also provided genuine Prada wear from the fall/winter 2005 collection, chosen by Miuccia Prada herself.
Only a few days after the debut of the art installation, there was a break-in and an act of vandalism. The storefront was defaced and the word “Dumb” spray-painted on the sides of the structure. Six handbags and 14 right-footed shoes were stolen. Either the criminals didn’t get the message or they were marking the building with a grading of their own thievery.
The sculpture was never intended to receive repair or upkeep and was supposed to be allowed to slowly degrade and rot back into the environment; however, after this almost instant act of vandalism they did repair, repaint, and restock. The new Prada handbags had no bottoms and instead hide security systems that alert local authorities to their movement. It could be said that such instant violent interaction with the art installation shows how strongly it speaks to its audience. It certainly did wonders for the piece’s art coverage. It was vandalized again in 2014, and Texas-based artist Joe Magnano was subsequently arrested and tried for the crime.
The site has recently received more attention and an increasing amount of patronage due to the fact that Beyoncé visited the art installation and posted an image of her jumping outside the monument on her social media accounts. Since then, a recreation of the photo has been on the bucket list of many fashion-conscious followers, perhaps in direct conflict with the sculpture’s actual message.
Critics claim that the piece relies too heavily on context to get its message across, and instead of criticizing consumerism and celebrity they are supposed to be highlighting, they are in fact celebrating it. This is a feeling mirrored by the Texas Department of Transportation, who consider it a billboard and have deemed it unfit due to it falling outside of regulated specifications.