all images from the book “Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset: Prada Marfa”
published by Walther König, Koln (July 1, 2007)
Illuminated at night, with a range of original shoes and handbags displayed in its windows, this Prada store never opens. Pressing your face to the glass reveals the plush carpet inside to be covered in dead flies. A permanent sculpture installed in 2005 by Scandinavian artists Elmgreen and Dragset, Prada Marfa, about 40 miles north-west of the town it is named after, is a sort of gatepost that marks the edge of a remote yet popular art park that has bloomed over the past two decades in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert.
The artists describe Prada Marfa as a “pop architectural land art project” and its ironic, minimalist product displays make reference to the work of Marfa’s most famous artist-inhabitant. Donald Judd, a moody Midwesterner with Scottish roots – betrayed in his predilection for kilts, whisky and bagpipe music – arrived in Marfa from New York in the mid-70s. He kept his five-storey cast-iron building in SoHo but, disillusioned with the “glib and harsh” Manhattan art scene and his position in it as a doyen of minimalism (a label he always disavowed), he withdrew to rural Texas for increasingly large parts of the year. In Marfa he created his own utopian mix of elemental art, architecture and furniture and in the process was forced to meditate on the differences between these art forms.
Prada Marfa is a permanently installed sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, situated 2.3 km (1.4 mi) northwest of Valentine, Texas, 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 "pop architectural 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.
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.
Along a ledge that runs around the base of the building, hundreds of people have left business cards, weighed down by small rocks.
A few days after Prada Marfa was officially revealed, the installation was vandalized.
The building was broken into and all of its contents (six handbags and 14 right footed shoes) were stolen, and the word "Dumb" and 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.