Ballroom Marfa Art Fund


Prada Marfa Explainer: Updates!

17 Mar 2014


In light of recent developments, we’ve updated our Prada Marfa Explainer with new information about our conversations with the Texas Department of Transportation, and with some clarification about how and why we maintain the site.

Why is there any maintenance of Prada Marfa? Isn’t it supposed to become a ruin?

When Elmgreen & Dragset erected Prada Marfa in 2005, they, along with the producers Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa, proposed that the public art project would exist at the mercy of the elements and visitors. As Art Production Fund’s Yvonne Force Villareal told the New York Times before its opening, “We loved the idea of the piece being born on Oct. 1 and that it will never again be maintained. If someone spray-paints graffiti or a cowboy decides to use it as target practice or maybe a mouse or a muskrat makes a home in it, 50 years from now it will be a ruin that is a reflection of the time it was made.”

The reality of leaving Prada Marfa completely untouched is a complicated and multifaceted issue. The site is far from pristine, as visitors will already know; however, all parties realized that if the structure were allowed to fully decay, it would become both a hazard and an eyesore. With the blessing of Elmgreen & Dragset, the work’s original plan was modified shortly after it was constructed in 2005. Since it is a public installation, Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa are required by law to perform a certain level of repairs in the interest of safety. And out of respect to the residents of Valentine, we paint over graffiti and clean up trash at the site as needed. Performing this minimal maintenance remains true to the spirit of Elmgreen & Dragset’s original proposal, and it also allows us to keep the installation accessible to the public.

In addition to our efforts to maintain the site, we organize semi-annual cleanups of the mile-long stretch of US Highway 90 adjacent to Prada Marfa as part of the Texas Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway program. As we saw in the aftermath of the 2014 site defacement, residents of Valentine also voluntarily removed detritus left behind by visitors in an effort to protect the site.

While we invite commentary, critique, and interaction with the site, the recent aggressive act of vandalism resulted in significant damage and leaves little room for further engagement about its intention.
The large-scale defacement of the structure overwhelms this forum and shuts down dialogue. We do not endorse the defacement of Prada Marfa, as it limits this thoughtful public discourse.

UPDATE 3/17/2014: Is the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) trying to remove Prada Marfa?

As of March 2014 we are currently in productive talks with TxDOT and are close to resolving the issues around Prada Marfa.