A donkey waits in anticipation of the new Prada in Marfa.
In October 2005, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, two artists working out of Berlin, completed a project 40 miles outside of Marfa on Highway 90. The permanent installation includes a large rectilinear building made from an earth-friendly stucco material and features two substantial windows below black signs reading “Prada Marfa.” The small-scale boutique houses a collection of shoes and bags from Prada’s 2005 Fall collection. But unlike an actual store, the piece is not designed to sell the contents within. Instead, Elmgreen and Dragset have envisioned the site to eventually erode into the desert landscape.
Prada Marfa functions as a tie between historical events that have occurred within the town and commentary on the gentrification of Marfa. Elmgreen and Dragset’s vision for Prada Marfa to eventually fall into ruins mimics other famous structures within the town. Most recognized is the Riata set-piece from the 1950’s movie Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. During production, a large set was brought in from California and built in the middle of the desert. The piece was never dismantled and as a result, decayed naturally. Prada Marfa reflects a similar aesthetic to the Riata and starts a discussion with Marfa’s historical past.
Art Forum, Craig Rember, the Judd Foundation registrar, commented on the evolving state of Marfa. He declares Marfa’s, “Burgeoning reputation as an austerely chic, exclusive little contemporary art mecca … where you can drop $50,000 on some art, and spend $300 on supper but where it’s difficult to get a haircut or batteries.” Rember goes on to describe the town’s exploding real estate market stating, “It’s also something of a surprise to discover a real estate feeding frenzy, where modest land parcels are being snapped up—sight unseen—for immodest money.” The location of Prada Marfa, which is much closer to the neighboring town of Valentine, shows the growth and interest in the town and a developing population of art conscious individuals and tourists with money.