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Texas | Texas Art

These [Shoes] aren't Made for Walkin'

PRADA "OPENS" IN MARFA

by Luke Warm
Photos courtesy Lizette Kapre,
Ballroom Marfa, and the Art Production Fund

West Texas gets a Long-Overdue
Infusion of Whimsy by German-based Artists

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Texas Border Patrol At Prada Marfa
Border Patrol at Prada Marfa
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, October 2010
Prada Marfa windows replaced with Lexan
The building windows have been replaced with Lexan.
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, October 2010
I was still bemoaning the disappearance of the Oasis Gas Station between Valentine and Fort Davis, when "our man in West Texas" called to tell me that the Oasis had "been replaced" by something or someone named Marfa Prada.

When I Googled Marfa Prada, I half-expected to see the girl who sat behind me in 9th grade science class, but I soon learned it was actually Prada Marfa - a piece of art. Store as sculpture. Searching images - it appeared before me - a beautiful lighted-from-within 15 x 25 box with no unsightly utility lines or detracting parking lot.
Prada Marfa, the adobe structure near Marfa, Texas
Courtesy Lizette Kapre, Ballroom Marfa, and the Art Production Fund
Prada Marfa
Courtesy Lizette Kapre, Ballroom Marfa, and the Art Production Fund
West Texas has a history of faux-ruins. Beginning in the 50s, flatcars arrived from California carrying "Riata." This huge prop became the plywood-thin mansion of Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in Giant. The mansard-roofed prop bravely weathered the West Texas climate for years. It's last appearance was a cameo appearance in Fandango.

Then there was the Oasis Gas Station for the movie Dancer, Texas, pop. 81 and finally Contrabando - a complete faux-village built just north of the Rio Grande on highway 170 that has appeared in both US and Mexican movies - at least one of them named Contrabando.


But Prada Marfa takes the proverbial cake. Movie sets are meant to be art but seldom are they wry statements. Prada Marfa is (was) both.

It's "Grand-opening" / showing occurred on October 1st, 2005. (My invitation was probably lost in the excitement of hurricane Rita.) When I first saw the photos of the sculpture - I knew that the glass windows and doorway probably didn't see the sunrise of October 2nd. (Actually, the vandals took three days to arrive.)
Window shopping at Prada Marfa
Courtesy Lizette Kapre, Ballroom Marfa, and the Art Production Fund
A time-released time capsule.

The artists and supporters of this project knew this too. Made of earth-friendly earth, this biodegradable adobe building will slowly melt back into the landscape once the looters have removed the merchandise. The slow fade to oblivion will provide countless hours of conversation for motorists driving through West Texas. Starting with simple questions like "What the hell was that?" it's sure to inspire more thoughtful dialogue - like "When is advertising art?" or "When is art advertising?" Or (for really long trips) "What is art, anyway?" My question is: If it wasn't Marfa Prada, then who did sit behind me in 9th grade science?

Texas' most famous outdoor sculpture is probably the weather-worn, graffiti-covered "Cadillac Ranch" outside of Amarillo. It's been baking and freezing in the Panhandle for 30-some years now and still going strong. But like the man said about progress - there's nothing wrong with it - it just went on too long. Prada Marfa may never outlast those bodies by Fisher, but it's already become the most talked about sculpture of the 21st Century - despite the puny traffic count of highway 90.
Prada Marfa at twilight, West Texas
Courtesy Lizette Kapre, Ballroom Marfa, and the Art Production Fund
Tabloid Theory

Someone (name withheld by request) has suggested that Prada Marfa isn't a sculpture at all - but a trap set by aliens wanting to abduct humans. One has to admit that a desolate West Texas highway might just be an excellent place for specimen gathering. There might be a connection with that 24-hour taxidermy shop that suddenly appeared outside of Toyah, Texas in 1998 and disappeared about two weeks later. What if that taxidermy store was to lure male specimens and "they" decided a second one was needed to lure females? Walk in for a handbag and next thing you know you're being prodded awake by Clingons. Yikes!
* * * * *
Cruel Shoes

The first batch of comments about Prada Marfa that we read (on one of the 72,000 entries on Google) was thoughtful - and mostly anonymous. One person called the sculpture "a cruel mirage." I guess if I stopped and waited an hour for it to open before figuring it out - I might call it a cruel mirage, too.

As time passes, fewer people will slow down to gawk. My suggestion would be to do it again as a hologram. Let the vandals come and spray paint walls that aren't there. Better yet, it could be a convenience store / gas station hologram with a sign showing $1.85 gasoline. Now there's a cruel mirage.
* * * * *
"I can't take 'em back, honey, I, uh, lost the receipt."

Some people are concerned with what role Prada played. Was it a simple blessing or a partial sponsorship? Who cares? A bigger concern should be the foot problems that will soon arise when local women start walking around in mismatched pairs of shoes. The shoes in the sculpture were actual items from the Fall 2005 Prada collection - but from the photos they appear as solitary shoes.

John Troesser
"They shoe horses, don't they?" - November 1, 2005 column

See
Prada Marfa 2007 Update
Truck reflection, Prada Marfa, west  Texas
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, June 2007
Prada Marfa 2007 Update
Prada Marfa Texas Forum:
  • Prada Marfa 2007 Update

  • Subject: Prada Marfa
    Dear TE,I recently went on a family vacation to Fort Davis, Texas. My kids and I could not believe our eyes when we saw the Prada Marfa store! It so surprised us that I slammed the brakes and turned around and took a picture. I am happy to find out it was art. - Graciela Tercero, August 23, 2007


  • Prada Marfa Missing?
    Dear TE, Is Prada Marfa even still there? I work in Big Bend National Park and made a special trip out on Hwy 90 all the way from Marfa to Valentine to shoot it, and could not find it anywhere. (I did see the blimp base, however.) Is it right by the side of the road, or is it off aways? Please advise.

    By the way, I'm a former free-lance photographer from Dallas and have accumulated a storehouse of West Texas images, and am still at it. While visiting your wonderful site, I noticed there are more than a few towns in your Texas Towns A-Z that don't have any images at all, some of which I have. Just let me know if you would you like me to send you some - Sincerely, Doug Duncan, January 09, 2007

  • Prada Marfa and the "Lost Blimp" of Valentine
    [Dear TE], I have had two wierd encounters on highway 90 from Marfa to Van Horn that caused me to stop, then laugh.

    My first encounter was when I was driving Hwy 90 for the first time last December and I noticed the border patrol blimp from the back-end. It looked like a propeller floating in mid-air - attached to nothing. The road was so flat and had such little traffic that I was able to watch it and drive at the same time using my peripheral vision. At one point I actually got out of the car to study it and try to figure out what it was. It was not until I got [directly] under it that I could see the entire thing. Then I wondered all the way to Van Horn who had lost their blimp. I imagined the Texas winds placing [it] out in the middle of nowwhere. Someone in Van Horn clued me in [as to the blimp's function and ownership].

    This week I was making the same journey and noticed a small building out in the middle of nowhere that said something about Marfa. I had an appointment and couldn't stop at that time. I had evidentally driven past it the time before but hadn't noticed it as my eyes were directed up at the blimp. On the way back I had more time so when I passed by the building again - I turned around to see what it was. Boy was I surprised! It almost makes you think you might be on Candid Camera. I think [someone] should film the people that stop to see it. Both incidents made me chuckle and were welcome distractions on that lonely drive. I hope there is more to come. Thanks for the entertainment! - Tammie Riley, Van Horn, Texas, September 08, 2006

  • Subject: Prada Marfa
    As me and my mom were on our way to Eagle Pass we passed the shoestore [Prada Marfa] and we were not sure if it was what we had seen. We wanted to make a U-turn and see if it was really there. Well, on our way back it was there. We stopped and took pictures of it. To us it was a store in the middle of nowhere, but [we] enjoyed it as well. I told my brother about it and he doesn't belive it's really there. - Marisa Flores, May 11, 2006

  • Subject: MARFA STORE
    YOUR STORE FRONT GOT OUR ATTENTION THIS LAST FRIDAY NIGHT AS WE HEADED INTO MARFA TO SEE THE LIGHTS...WE STOPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD AND TOOK A PICTURE OF YOUR PRADA SHOE STORE..AND THOUGHT WE SAW ALIENS WEARING YOUR SHOES INSIDE ONE SMALL ALIEN FIGURE LOOKED TO BE CARRING A PRADA HANDBAG...WHEN I CHECKED MY CAMERA LATER TO VIEW THOSE PICTURES THEY WERE GONE EXCEPT FOR THE ONE PICTURE OF THE ENTIRE STORE FROM THE HIGHWAY..YOUR PRODUCTS ARE NOW KNOWN THRU OUT THE GALAXY....WE LOVED THE STORE AND WONDERED WHERE THE GAS STATION WENT MAYBE NEXT TRIP WE'LL SHOP YOUR STORE DURING REGULAR BUSINESS HOURS....THANK YOU THE KLOCK FAMILY FROM FARMINGTON NM, January 08, 2006

  • Subject: Prada Marfa
    WE WANT SUCH A SCULPTURE HERE IN OUDTSHOORN - IN THE SEMI DESERT VALLEY OF THE SWARTBERG MOUNTAINS!!!! - Sunny regards, Petra, Oudtshoorn, South Africa, December 13, 2005

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  • Our thanks to the artists, Michael and Ingar, for their prompt personal response to our request for photos, the producers (Ballroom Marfa, and the Art Production Fund), The Hall family for the use of their land, Casey Fremont for her prompt response and to photographer Lizette Kapre - who I think sat in front of me in 9th grade science class. - LW
    See Prada Marfa 2007 Update
    See Marfa, Texas

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