The opening photograph of this blog post may seem familiar to those who have binged Gossip Girl. When the series starts, the van der Woodsen family’s upper east side flat is under renovation but upon the first few episodes of the second season, the matriarch Lilly, is selecting art for the newly updated home. One of the pieces is a reference to the Prada Marfa installation by Elmgreen and Dragset, a pair of European artists who have worked together since 1995.
In our quest to stay off of the beaten path, we spent our second night in Texas in another arts town, this one on the west side of the state. While the title includes “Marfa,” it is not actually within the town limits; rather it is about thirty minutes away from Hotel Paisano.
The installation was subsidized by the Art Production Fund, a nonprofit that promotes public art. With the assistance of a pair of architects, Prada Marfa was installed in October of 2005, for a cost of 120,000 dollars. It is constructed out of adobe and plaster and with a sealed aluminum storefront assembly. The products within the installation were handpicked by Miuccia Prada: six handbags and twenty one shoes. Even though Elmgreen and Dragset received permission to use the Prada name and even had the merchandise curated by the head designer of the brand, Prada Marfa is a comment on capitalism and consumption.
While Prada Marfa was designed to degrade into the landscape, to never be repaired from wear and tear, it did not take a mere 36 hours for the installation to be vandalized and merchandise burgled. Rather than follow through with the intention to allow let the installation be, it was repaired and the products were replaced, albeit with security-laden versions. It was later vandalized again in 2014 and subsequently cleaned up.
Initially, I felt conflicted regarding whether the installation should have been repaired in order to align with the artists’ intention to allow it to degrade. However, I can imagine public safety being a concern; can you imagine the broken glass and maybe a pack of wild coyotes taking up residence in Prada Marfa?