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Over the weekend, vandals defaced Scandinavian artists Elmgreen and Dragset’s “Prada Marfa,” the simulated Prada storefront that has, since its installation in 2005, brought international attention to a remote stretch of Texas highway. The small structure was covered in signs for popular espadrilles brand TOMS shoes, written graffiti, and splattered blue paint; pamphlets in a style somewhere between French theorist Jean Baudrillard and the brochure an insane cultist shoved into your hands on the subway yesterday were also scattered on the premises. A local reporter, Lisa Morton of The Van Horn Advocate, posted the above video of the scene on YouTube and disclosed the pamphlet’s garbled statement of purpose for the vandalism:
TOMS Marfa will bring greater inspiration to consumer Americans to give all they have to developing nations that suffer disease starvation and corruption … So long as you buy TOMS shoes, and endorse Jesus Christ as your savior, welcoming the ‘white’ him into your heart. So help you God, otherwise your damned to hell … Welcome to your Apocalypse?
The pamphlet continues on the reverse with a critique of Prada Marfa:
The irony of Prada Marfa, it’s fake. Prada Marfa has no representation of Texas and Southwest North America. Prada Marfa is a relic of a Bourgeois not so distant past; serving today’s hyper reality of a blank canvas.
The “store” had previously encountered issues with theft of merchandise and exterior vandalism when it first opened, and an advanced security system was installed in response. According to Marfa Public Radio, the local sheriff’s office was informed of the vandalism on Sunday but has not identified a suspect. Prada Marfa’s legal standing is already precarious, as the Texas Department of Transportation ruled in September that the installation is an illegal outdoor advertisement.
A representative of Ballroom Marfa, the nearby contemporary art nonprofit that commissioned the work, told Hyperallergic that a statement is forthcoming later today.
Update, 3/11, 12:26 pm: Ballroom Marfa has released the following statement, characterizing previous incidents of vandalism as forms of public engagement distinct from this weekend’s unprecedented defacement, which “overwhelms this forum and shuts down the dialogue.”
Elmgreen & Dragset’s Prada Marfa installation has provoked a number of reactions since it was constructed in 2005. Most responses take the form of playful snapshots while some would-be art critics register their thoughts in spent shell casings and graffiti. This is Far West Texas, and we would expect nothing less.
Public art like Prada Marfa encourages engagement. Ballroom Marfa and Art Production Fund have taken the steps necessary to keep this public forum alive, whether that means passing around another photo of someone imitating Beyoncé’s leap, painting over a few months of accumulated graffiti or patching up the bullet holes in the windows.
The most recent vandalism of the public Prada Marfa site is different. The large scale defacement of the structure overwhelms this forum and shuts down the dialogue. A site previously recognized as an example of sustainable earth architecture is now coated in toxic paint while the insulation foam garbage left behind by the defacer(s) blows across the highway and into the landscape. Spring breakers still stop to see the installation, but now there are Jeff Davis County deputies on scene as well.
No decisions have been made other than that Ballroom Marfa and Art Production Fund will restore Prada Marfa, and it will remain a public site. We’re close to resolving the widely publicized issues with the Texas Department of Transportation, and we expect Prada Marfa will be around for years to come. It will surely continue to inspire a wide range of commentary; we just hope that a single point of view — one comprised of blue paint, industrial adhesive and insulation foam — will not override and destroy this exchange of ideas.
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