Art Installation, Prada Marfa, Faces its Largest Act of Vandalism
Any form of art is an interactive experience. Theater, music, and visual arts all draw on the energy they can pull from the viewer, but what if that energy turns negative? Recently, a long-standing art installation in Texas, Prada Marfa, was extensively vandalized and essentially transformed by an outside group. This is not the first, or the last time, a work of art was subjected to harsh criticism expressed physically, but it’s one of the most memorable.
The Prada Marfa was installed in 2005 by Scandinavian artists Elmgreen and Dragset, as a faux Prada shop in the middle of the arid Texas countryside. It houses real Prada products, selected by the designer herself, but lacks a working door. Supported by the Art Production Fund non-profit and Ballroom Marfa, a local performance and art space, this installation was intended to be a commentary on the influence of high-end retail and the time sensitive nature of fashion.
Initially, the project was never intended to be maintained, as the natural decomposition and minor vandalism were to underline the themes of the project and the time within which it was erected. As years passed, although, slight maintenance was done to paint over graffiti and patch bullet holes in the glass. This iconic installation became regarded as a landmark and local people, and visitors, take pride in it.
The latest strike of vandalism, done by an unknown group, has proven to be the most dramatic. The once stark-white walls are now splattered with blue paint and papers printed with the TOMS logo. Pamphlets promoting the cause of the vandalism and criticizing the installation were also to be found on site. While interaction with the Prada Marfa installation has always been encouraged, this act has “shut down the dialogue,” as Ballroom Marfa released in a statement regarding the incident.
Art is meant to provoke and inspire, but is there a point where the public engagement becomes a detriment to its existence and intended purpose? By the extensive damage done to the installation, the vandals completely transformed it from its original piece, cloaking it in a completely different identity. The commentary on the fashion industry is lost, and instead an unconventional, and uncommissioned, ad for TOMS is in place.
Ironically what was left to explain the purpose of the act, proves to be the most puzzling of all. Within the pamphlets it’s said, “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?” This perplexing “manifesto,” as many are referring to it, has been difficult to interpret and while the group responsible remains a mystery, so too will their exact intentions.
Just as the statement says, this eliminates the open dialogue instilled in the project since its inception. The overwhelming impact of the vandalism discourages the generation of other ideas. Ballroom Marfa is planning to restore the site and maintain it so it’s around even longer. “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.”