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The Art and Social Nuance of Prada in Marfa, Texas


You might not love Prada, but you might love art. And when you think of West Texas, Prada is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Vision of tumbleweeds and wide open space and dirt are all what most people think exist “over there”. But Berlin-based artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset had a different vision for the middle-of-nowhere town. Marfa is a road trip hot spot for a lot of adventurers. People drive from all over the country to see their full-scale installation of a Prada boutique, filled with actual Prada shoes and bags from a 2005 collection. The boutique draws photographers from all over the world. Elmgreen and Dragset create with questions of identity and belonging as their anchors. They “investigate social, cultural, and political practices in their artistic practice” (Pace Gallery). The Prada store is meant to naturally deteriorate over time with zero undergoing any restoration.

Photography by Caleb Fisher

In 2010, the art piece was the center of controversy with TxDot deeming it illegal advertising due to being situation on public property. Though built on private land owned by Carmen Hall, apparently the awning swung too far over, and made the state of Texas scratch their heads. Clearly, nothing happened because the high-end replica meant to be a critique of the luxury goods industry is still standing.

Black people could never. Especially in West Texas. And one can still appreciate Elmgreen and Dragset’s focus on social, cultural, and political issues in their art.

Prada Controversy

Prada is one of many luxury brands being called out for racist designs and advertising. As recent as 2020, Prada received backlash for their blackface trinkets in their store window in Manhattan, a year after Gucci sold blackface sweatshirts. Until equity becomes an essential aspect of how fashion brands do business, not just hire one Black designer or any designer of color, these types of things will continue to happen.

Juxtaposition at its finest

The average household income in Marfa, Texas is $48,931. The poverty rate is 17.37%. The population is 88.15% white. Prada is around 30 miles outside of town. In the middle of Tumbleweed Valley. No lights except the expansion of stars come nightfall. A full-scale replica of one of the world’s most well-known luxury brands. Deteriorating with stuff that costs more than the rent of the people who live down the road. A brand that has yet to figure out how to not perpetuate racism as luxury, disconnected and so far from poverty. And yet so close.

Photograph by Mizzu Cho




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