About 30 minutes outside of the Marfa, Texas (population 1,900) is Prada Marfa – a Prada store, designed by Berlin-based artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. The sculpture (aka the store) was constructed in 2005 and designed to resemble a Prada store, right down to the Fall/Winter 2005 shoes and handbags, selected and provided by Miuccia Prada. (Prada allowed Elmgreen and Dragset to use the Prada trademark for this work but is otherwise not involved with the project and did not fund it). The store is never open and is intended to never be repaired, allowing it to slowly degrade back into the natural landscape – the point of the installation. As of this week, Prada Marfa might meet its end sooner than expected.
The faux store/permanent installation has been classified by the Texas Department of Transportation as an “illegal outdoor advertising sign.” Turns out, the Prada logo on the “store” is in violation of the 1965 Highway Beautification Act, which prohibits advertising on unlicensed land bordering federal highway U.S. 90 and requires an advertisers to have a permit. (The artists never obtained a permit because they “reject the idea that their installation is an advertisement,” claiming: “There’s a difference between being commissioned by a company to do something for them and using their logo, and using their logo on your own.”). So, while Texas law enforcement is entitled to remove the installation, the Department of Transportation has not yet decided what action it will take.
The Prada Marfa dispute joins the art-versus-advertising debate that has been underway in Marfa since June, when Playboy Enterprises planted its own installation on the same highway, just a mile northwest of town. The Playboy piece consists of a 1972 Dodge Charger on top of a box in front of a forty-foot neon Playboy bunny sign, and was designed by the artist Richard Phillips for Playboy (and was paid for by Playboy).
As for artist Elmgreen’s thoughts on the violation and potential removal of Prada Marfa, he said: “If it really is against the regulations, they should have found out in 2005 when it was erected.” Good point. More to come …