In a desolate strip, just off U.S. Route 90 in West Texas, about 60 km northwest of the city of Marfa, lies a tiny Prada store. On the front of the store there are two large windows through which you see a collection of Prada shoes and handbags, but there is no functional door to let you inside. For this is not a real retail store but a permanent art installation by Scandinavian artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. Although Prada didn’t endorse the installation, the company’s chairman and owner, Miuccia Prada, permitted the artists to use her brand’s logo. She even picked and provided the shoes and handbags from the fall/winter 2005 collection to be displayed inside.
Known as Prada Marfa, the $80,000 project was paid for by the New York nonprofit Art Production Fund in collaboration with Ballroom Marfa, a local contemporary art gallery.
The 15-foot-by-25-foot adobe building is made of biodegradable materials and was originally intended to never be repaired, allowing it to slowly degrade back into the natural landscape. The installation was meant as a critique of consumerism and the luxury goods industry. However, only a few days after its opening, the store was broke into and the goods stolen. The sculpture was quickly repaired - this time with stronger windows to prevent forced entry, repainted, and restocked. To discourage theft, the six handbags inside have no bottoms and all of the twenty shoes are right-footed.
Despite its isolated location, the “store” has drawn thousands of tourists since its opening in 2005. But the future of Prada Marfa could be at risk.
In 2013, the Texas Department of Transportation has classified the store as “illegal outdoor advertising” because it sits on unlicensed land bordering federal highway U.S. 90 and lacks a permit, which violates the 1965 Highway Beautification Act. This could lead to forced removal of the installation, although the department has not yet decided what action it will take.
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