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Is it going out of business for Prada Marfa?

March 31st, 2011 under Arts


VALENTINE – The designer shoes and handbags sitting in the display windows of the Prada Marfa art installation have never been for sale, of course. But after six years of repeated attacks from vandals – from trying to rip the door off with a chain just days after its 2005 opening to recent graffiti “JIM JOE” – it may be time to close up shop.

Michael Elmgreen, who along with fellow Scandinavian Ingar Dragset created Prada Marfa, first expressed his concerns to the Associated Press last week. He reiterated them in a Facebook exchange with the Sentinel Tuesday:

“If the county and the populations of Marfa and Valentine don’t think it is worth to protect the work and actively take over the responsibility of it in the future it might be necessary for us to reconsider the situation and maybe tear down the little but now rather famous building because it is even worse if it just stands there over sprayed with graffiti and bullet holes in its windows and looks like a ruin.”

Prada Marfa in 2005 after the first time it was vandalized. Property manager Boyd Elder is shown kneeling and former Jeff Davis County Sheriff Tom Roberts walks on the steps of the building. (staff photo by ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN)

Back at the time of its installation, a collaboration of the Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa, there was some anticipation that vandalism could occur and that it might even become a part of the work.

In an interview then with the New York Times, Yvonne Force-Villareal said: “If someone sprays graffiti or a cowboy decides to use it as target practice or maybe a mouse or a muskrat makes a home in it, 50 years from now it will be a ruin that is a reflection of the time it was made.”

But this week, Elmgreen qualified that vision.

“The idea was from the beginning to let Prada Marfa age and disintegrate ‘gracefully’ over the years, becoming weathered by sun, dust devils and other natural conditions,” Elmgreen wrote. “But we never had it in mind to accept it to be maliciously damaged by purpose. It might just be some silly teenagers who are bored and who want to make their mark but the repeating attacks on the work are rather disrespectful, we think.”

For now, there are no plans to dismantle the little store that never made a sale. Boyd Elder, who serves as caretaker of Prada Marfa, has said he will remove the existing graffiti and spruce things up yet again.

Added Doreen Rumen, of the Art Production Fund: “Regardless of vandals, we hope to keep Prada Marfa in tact for as long as possible. Many people have yet to visit in person, which we highly recommend for an unforgettable road trip.”

For his part, Elmgreen says they would be happy to donate Prada Marfa to the city or anyone else willing to ensure its upkeep.

“The fact is that both Art Production Fund and we ourselves have put a substantial amount of money into keeping Prada Marfa up and running over the years,” Elmgreen said. “For us, it would be interesting to know if there would be any interest in such a solution locally, or if it has become the final ‘closing time’ for Prada Marfa.”

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Story filed under: Arts

10 Responses to “Is it going out of business for Prada Marfa?”

  1. Melissa Keane says:

    The opening of Prada Marfa was an amusing vignette. Clusters of hipster big-city types pontificating on how this installation was “in the middle of nowhere” while they stood back-to-back with the owners of the adjoining ranch/ranches [who, I suspect, did not consider their homes/businesses to be in the middle of nowhere]. I would agree that both Valentine and Marfa have more pressing needs for municipal funds than maintaining this piece of whimsy, amusing though it may be.

  2. FromAustin says:

    I have never been to see this site, nor would I ever have the inclination to do so. Thank you for your comment – you solidified my views on this thing being rather elitist; not to mention, completely irrelevant to what west Texas has to offer.

  3. Chris Luther says:

    I’ve been to see it, but only after a dozen other trips to Marfa to see other works, when Prada Marfa was more a good excuse to see some more of the country than any enticing destination in itself. I think the artist’s view, and the work itself, is at best naive, at worst elitist and arrogant. You dump this thing on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t have a building NOT in need of serious repair or that isn’t already falling down; despite any wink nudge critique flaunts a culture of disposable wealth/fashion/people in a deeply impoverished and desperate area (the hipster yuppie real estate boom in Marfa not withstanding.) And then you expect everyone to just appreciate your aesthetic largess and cleverness? (and make no mistake – a gift of “beauty” and “culture” has nothing to do with this thing whatsoever.) Makes me want to go put a few bullets in it myself next time I’m down there, if I were wont to do such things (which I am not). I pray that the residents of Valentine stay safe in this fire, but that maybe Prada Marfa is taken out, saving everyone the trouble.

  4. Adam says:

    Jim Joe is a NYC graffiti artist and his tag is a fairly common sight around town here. Kinda fitting.

  5. Dusty says:

    If you have never been sick you can’t appreciate health, if you have never been hungry you won’t appreciate food. Thank you to the Joe Coles of the world for helping me appreciate art.

  6. Dave Scott says:

    The great thing about Prada Marfa is that it makes people talk, it makes people disagree on art, it makes some people mad and gives others joy.

    I really like the place and hope it is around for a long time to come.

  7. reader says:

    Solution: make it a functional Prada store.

  8. Amber says:

    This is very sad..That we cant have something w/out someone destroying it!! And as for you Joe Cole it is something to the people who created it. I saw it one night on the way to el paso. It was pitch black outside & all i could she was this Prada store..i thought it was great, It made me smile!!!

  9. Joe Cole says:

    How silly that these people expect “the populations of Marfa and Valentine” to protect (provide security for?) a little shack which is nothing more than an eyesore in the high desert. It’s not like it’s something important.

  10. […] This makes me very sad. posted by Cindy Scroggins in art, texas, this is why we can't have nice things | * | comment  […]

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