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What Is ‘Prada Marfa’ and Why Does TXDOT Want It Gone?

Scott Halleran, Getty Images

Some folks love it, others hate it, some don’t know what to think of the faux Prada store 35 miles outside of Marfa, Texas. Regardless, it’s now become the focus of the debate on freedom of expression versus advertising, and the Texas Department of Transportation has now classified it as ‘illegal advertising’.

From the Prada Marfa Facebook page:

Prada Marfa is a permanently installed sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, situated 2.3 km (1.4 mi) northwest of ValentineTexas, just off U.S. Route 90, and about 60 km (37 mi) northwest of the city of Marfa. The installation was inaugurated on October 1, 2005. The artists called the work a “poparchitectural land art project.” The sculpture, realized with the assistance of American architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, cost US $80,000 and was intended to never be repaired, so it might slowly degrade back into the natural landscape. This plan was deviated from when, three days after the sculpture was completed, vandals graffitied the exterior, and broke into the building stealing handbags and shoes.

Sculpture

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 herself from the fall/winter 2005 collection; Prada allowed Elmgreen and Dragset to use the Prada trademark for this work. 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 sculpture was financed by the Art Production Fund(APF) and Ballroom Marfa, a center of contemporary art and culture.

But, according to The New York Times, the Texas Department of Transportation has officially classified the structure as ‘an illegal outdoor advertisement’. It seems that TXDOT officials have decided to take issue with the six-year-old piece, which they now deem in violation of a 1965 act aimed at controlling billboards:

From the state’s perspective, the logo is defined by state and federal law as a sign. And because the “sign” sits on unlicensed land bordering federal highway U.S. 90 and lacks a permit, it violates the 1965 Highway Beautification Act signed by president Lyndon B. Johnson and championed by his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. – TXDOT

 

Why is this just now becoming a controversy? One reason may be the recent installation of a sculpture commissioned by Playboy Magazine nearby.

YouTube

That piece, commissioned by Playboy Magazine is, some contend, just a massive piece of advertising.

The artist side of the debate contends that bureaucrats shouldn’t be deciding what is art and what is not. Anyone remember Andy Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Can’?

There is now a Facebook page set up to ‘Save Prada Marfa’.

What do you think? Should Prada Marfa be torn down?

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