Stealth artist may be behind latest Prada Marfa vandalism
By JOHN DANIEL GARCIA
VALENTINE – An artist known only as 9271977 may be behind the recent vandalism of the Prada Marfa installation on U.S. 90 west of Valentine.
The Big Bend Sentinel’s research into several keywords and quotes in some printed text left at the scene led to the agitpop artist’s homepage, www.9271997.com.
The signature “J.2014,” which was scrawled on the eastern wall of the Prada Marfa building, is also seen as the signature in the artist’s paintings posted on the website. Verbiage in a screed posted on the website, “Viva Las Vegas,” also matched that of the manifesto left at the installation.
Residents and tourists traveling along found a curious sight early Sunday morning, as the typically bone-colored Prada Marfa came into sight with both sides of the structure painted blue. In addition, there were defaced bibles sporting the TOMS shoes logo strewn around the structure, as well as famous quotes, hung from the now-cut awnings, and posters pasted onto the polycarbonate windows.
The extensive damage, Ballroom Marfa Executive Director Mellissa McDonnell Lujan said, will likely cost between $10,000 and $20,000 to repair, with at least $5,000 needed for the paint job alone.
“We’re more than likely going to have to get the money for repairing the building from our insurance,” Lujan said. “The amount that it will cost will definitely be outside our regular yearly maintenance budget.”
According to the site’s property manager, Boyd Elder, who is currently in Hawaii, not much is known about the act other than the timeframe of when it occurred.
“We do know around the time it was,” explained Elder. “Seeing as how there are no footprints or any other evidence like that, it had to be before it rained [Sunday morning].”
Surveillance cameras on the building, McDonnell said, were not operational at the time the vandalism occurred.
According to Valentine resident Rita Weingart, who was one of the first to notice the vandalism, the mess was cleaned up quickly by people unaffiliated with Ballroom Marfa. Weingart, her daughter, and another Valentine resident, Terry McEntire, were joined in the clean up by tourists driving down the highway.
“A couple from New York and another couple from San Antonio stopped to help,” she said. “It took us a couple of hours, but I though it was pretty darn cool that they gave their time.”
The act of vandalism, or as the manifesto that was left in the wake, considers the clandestine painting and postering, “appropriation,” was essentially a vandal’s call to the changing social and political landscape of the nation, and world at large, since the 2005 building of the Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset-designed structure; which was produced through a partnership between Ballroom Marfa and the Art Production Fund.
“Prada Marfa in its past existence served its purpose,” states the manifesto, “but today in 2014 – for better or worse – society has seen advancement in social connectivity, global war, entitlements, corporate austerity, poverty, destruction of nature, desensitization of life, faltering education, sickness, substance and food abuse, exploitation of indigenous nations, corrupt banking systems, gone amuck free market neo-capitalism, disharmonious politics and impudent religions…”
The vandal’s scope in the letter quickly changes to an attack on the social reach of TOMS, a company known for its ‘One For One’ policy, in which the company donates a pair of shoes to poverty-stricken communities for every pair sold in stores or online.
TOMS’ practice of producing their products in developing nations with high income inequality, as well as the company’s alleged favoring of “evangelical groups as giving partners” are also expressed in the writing.