Standard Dispatch

Prada Marfa vs. Texas Board of Transportation

"Location! Location! Location!" they say is the key to any thriving retail business, as well as for ironic artistic commentaries. Alas Prada Marfa, a structure that belies the very idea of consumerism now lives under threat of foreclosure for being too ... commercial. Through some Dada-esque chain of events ensnaring art, advertising, local politics, literal-minded bureaucrats, Lady Bird Johnson, Beyoncé, Playboy and Prada, The Texas Board of Transportation may shutter our favorite place not to buy handbags. We happened to have a Culture correspondent in the neighborhood last week. Here's what she saw in the cold desert night.

MARFA, TEXAS – Somewhere in the middle of my pilgrimage to the West Texas art mecca that is Marfa, a lone sculpture miraculously appeared in the middle of the high Chihuahuan desert. Prada Marfa, as it is known, was conceived in 2005 by artists, Elmgreen & Dragset, with the independent backing of the non-profits, Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa, the local gallery I was there to help celebrate its Comic Future opening.

To U.S. 90 motorists of all walks-of-life, the installation is equally surprising as it is an especially ironic statement on consumerism, and perhaps given Marfa’s recent popularity, also pokes at the flocks of urbanites coming to Marfa for an alternative cultural fix. Furthermore, the installation lures viewers in to interact and play, as evidenced by the myriad of images taken by onlookers and photographers alike. Yet Prada Marfa may soon be just a desert mirage, as the recent controversy surrounding Richard Phillip’s Playboy-funded installation down the road, has woken the sleeping dragon otherwise known as the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) who, ignoring the fact that Prada had no role in commissioning the piece, has declared the artwork illegal on the grounds that the logo is an advertisement on land prohibited from such usage without a permit. (A prohibition left over from Lady Bird Johnson's Highway Beautification Act of 1965.)

It is undeniable that Prada Marfa has become an iconic public artwork, inextricably linked to Marfa’s avant-garde identity. While the TxDOT deems it illegal, the true crime would be to let all those beautiful bags go to use…

Support the Save Prada Marfa campaign on Facebook. Read more about the artists behind Prada Marfa in our 2011 interview here

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