For eight years, Prada Marfa, a pop-art installation depicting a small luxury retail store, has stood alone in the barren plains of West Texas, 37 miles outside the city of Marfa. But now, the Texas Department of Transportation has declared that the Prada “store” is an illegal roadside advertisement.
The artists of the installation, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, designed the installation as “a critique of the luxury goods industry,” claiming there is no commercial relationship between themselves and Prada. According to the Houston Chronicle, the piece was privately funded and therefore can not be defined as advertising. Boyd Elder, a local artist and Prada Marfa site representative told the Chronicle, “It’s not advertisement, it’s not a store, no one is selling anything there. It’s an art installation.”
Prada Marfa remains locked at all times, a clever reference to the overpriced, unattainable nature of Prada goods. The hand bags on display inside the tiny store have their bottoms removed and only the right shoe of each pair is displayed against a back-lit wall. Originally, the artists intended to leave the project to decay back into the landscape, but the project was vandalized and the goods inside stolen just days after launching spurring repairs. Over the years, the bump on the flat Texas skyline has become a popular stop-off site for art fans and curious tourists.
While the store is still periodically vandalized, Prada Marfa‘s newest threat is the Texas state government. The controversy began after Playboy installed a 40-foot-tall neon bunny along the same stretch of road, bringing new scrutiny to the Prada storefront. The state ordered that the bunny be removed by late October, but now it looks as though the Prada storefront could await a similar fate.
According to spokesperson, both the neon bunny and Prada Marfa are considered advertisements under state law as, among other things, they include logos. The state claims they could lose federal funding for roads if ads are not properly regulated. The state told the Chronicle that it hopes to find a legal compromise that allows the art installation to remain in place.