Are Prada Marfa’s Days Numbered?

(Photo: Lizette Kabré)

Elmgreen & Dragset‘s “Prada Marfa” has amused art lovers, bemused cowboys, and confused Gossip Girl viewers since the sealed-shut, fully merchandised boutique popped up on a blistered stretch of highway 90, just outside of Valentine, Texas and 37 miles northwest of Marfa. A co-production of Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa, the site-specific, permanent land art project has recently come under scrutiny from the Texas Department of Transportation, which has classified the structure as “an illegal outdoor advertisement” in violation of a 1965 act aimed at controlling billboards.

“The right definition of advertisement must be based on criteria more accurate than just including any sign which contains a logo,” say Elmgreen & Dragset. “It is advertisement only when a company either commissions someone to make such a sign, pays for its execution or makes a sign themselves in order to promote the company’s products.” The artists are careful to note that Prada did not commission the work, nor was the Italian fashion house involved in its creation. “They kindly gave us the permission to use their logo after we asked them, due to founder Muccia Prada’s personal interest in contemporary art, and she donated shoes and bags, which have never been renewed but stay the same–as a historic display–inside the sculpture.”

And if this brouhaha sounds like a something of a Texas two-step, considering that the work was installed eight years ago, blame it on the bunny. This summer saw the arrival of “Playboy Marfa,” an installation outside of Marfa by Richard Phillips that was commissioned by Landis Smithers and Neville Wakefield, Playboy’s creative director of special projects. Follow efforts to save Prada Marfa on the campaign’s Facebook page.