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Scenes of the Prada Marfa vandalism (screenshots via YouTube)

Elmgreen and Dragset, the duo behind the recently defaced conceptual storefront “Prada Marfa,” have condemned the vandalism in a statement to the Art Newspaper published earlier today. “It is crazy that we have come to a point in our culture where some individuals in their insane egomania, eager to obtain a bit of attention, start attacking other artists’ works,” the artists told the paper. They continued:

We saw it recently when a work by Ai Weiwei was smashed in Florida and now with the attack on Prada Marfa. Unlike movements such as Occupy Wall Street, these acts of vandalism have nothing to do with political activism — they are only symptoms of some disturbed minds’ personal vanity. To believe that you can fight something like social inequality by overpainting a sculptural work in the Texan dessert with toxic blue paint is pretty off the target.

Hyperallergic reached out to the alleged vandal, who identified themselves as 927197 to The Big Bend Sentinel, and we received the following response to our request for an interview:

Perhaps down the road,,, but please check out the project mission statement and response to elmgreen, for a better understanding … before we move forward.

Say what you will about the non-linear explanation that “9271977” offers on their site — most vandalisms are silly, and under-thought, but those acts are responsive, in a very basic way, to an art world that elevates the same traits in droves. The dramatic revision itself that the object status of high art underwent in the twentieth century was marked as much by developments in thought as by outright vandalism and other creative destructions. As Ben Lerner has argued in “Damage Control,” an essay dealing with the perils of condemning art vandals that appeared in the December issue of Harper’s, the logical frameworks used to shut down ‘outsider’ vandals are often inconsistent with assessments of more institutionalized works. In the piece (paywalled), Lerner argues this ambiguity as follows:

Charges of incoherence and irrelevance are often leveled at artists without that making them vandals. It is quite easy to argue that [so-called vandals] are bad artists — derivative, sloppy, stupid. And it is easy to argue that they are merely destructive — but then performative destruction has a long and sanctioned history in the avant-garde.

Mostafa Heddaya

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.

6 replies on “Elmgreen and Dragset Weigh in on Marfa Madness, Alleged Vandal Responds”

  1. I dare Elmgreen and Dragset to argue that “personal vanity” has never entered into their work. Puh-lease! If you put work out in public where anyone can walk up to it and interact with it, they will. In fact, you’re basically inviting people to do so. Have they never seen any street art in their lives? It’s ephemeral. Nobody gets to keep things forever.

    1. I get your point. But Rauschenberg collaborated with de Kooning. It was not really vandalism, but the illusion of vandalism; like Duchamp’s Mona Lisa, but taken one step further. He gave the drawing to the younger artist with a full understanding of what was to happen to it. This Prada Marfa thing is an example of avant-garde exhaustion. What we need are more drawings and less gestures.

  2. Thanks for highlighting the Lerner article, which I (Christopher, even though this comment will be attributed to BAASICS) shared with friends just after the Weiwei smashing. I enjoyed the piece and felt it raises excellent points, but most artists I know who read it characterize Lerner as reactionary and hostile to contemporary work/theory. I disagree, identifying the problem more on our side.

    In any case, it’s a conversation worth having.

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