The Road Less Traveled : P R A D A M A R F A

The Road Less Traveled : 
P R A D A  M A R F A

Once I knew we would be driving out to California for our cross country move this gorgeous installed art came into play. I had planned out all these “insta spots” from day one. It’s not everyday you get an opportunity to travel across the country and experience this type of journey. EPIC, would be the word for describing this journey. I’m sure most people would dread the thought of packing into a SUV with two kids, and four pets. Not me, I’m an adventure seeker. Knowing this wouldn’t be easy and the stress would creep in, still I didn’t care. I knew that like anything else thats been thrown my way, we got it. We always do, (Side not here, when you’re raising kids and you’ve lived away from family for a decade you don’t ever really have a choice. You just do it. I’ve been flying with both kids numerous times; alone. We’ve moved each time; alone. When you’re put into those type of high stress situations you come out stronger each time.)

I knew that the only way this Prada stop was going to work was for us to take the route that initially my husband was not in favor of. It is known as the “hot route”, the one closest to the Mexican border. The route that is the most desolate. Ya thats the one I wanted to take. It wasn’t until about two days before that he said to me

“I’m cool with whatever you want to take.”

“Even if it means an hour off the beaten path?”

Thats just him, he’s extremely laid back and when push comes to shove he’d rather just roll with my crazy ideas! I pulled an old school move and ordered Trip Tiks for both routes from AAA…just in case. Yes it’s a bit of an “old person” move, but thats who I am. Can’t be prepared enough for a journey this big. For those who don’t what a Trip Tik is, it’s a personalized map from AAA. You used to have go down to your local AAA office and request one. They would put it together in a two inch thick binder. As you would cruise along on your journey you would flip the page and be that much closer to your destination. All I did was call the 800 number to get ours mailed out.

I am dating myself, but that was life before GPS and iPhone life. Plus I felt like if the road was going to be this desolate then what if? What if our phones stopped working etc. I also went to the extreme of purchasing a big book atlas. You can’t be too prepared!

The second route closest to Mexico was my pick!

After Day 1 on our journey we had a better idea of the day and time we would be stopping through this small little town! It was looking like the end of Day 3. This was a bit daughting since we would have to drive for 8 hours before even getting into town. Would we make it before sunset? How would the babes + pets be for this quick stop? It was going to work, it had too because this was it. No going back now.

If you’ve read my post on The Road Less Traveled: West Texas Edition you already know how far out in the middle of what felt like no where was like. After we finished up at Tiny Target (previous post) we thought 20-30 minutes down the road to Prada Marfa. Not the case. It was actually about an hour and change. By this point the babes were hungry and the bubs needed to go potty. We were running against the sun here. As long as we got there about 20 minutes before the sunset we were good. At one point he said “we can always come back in the morning”. This was not an option for me. It would be back tracking and the lighting! Hello…. a photographers dream is to hit that golden hour. Needless to say we made it!

As we pulled up he got out to check the place out while I grabbed the camera and this hat box I brought along to keep my hats in tact. The scene was perfect. The store was actually stocked! Not for sale as this is an installed sculpture. As the sun started to set we got a gorgeous orange hue that bounced off the store front. He directed me according to the light and shadows. (Al turned insta husband on the fly? This was a nice treat from seasons past when it was just me lugging around my tripod.

That 15 minutes we were out here, we felt alive. I felt as though I had morphed back into the pre babe me, him into the pre dad days, not a care in the world.

It was being out in the desert, it was all the planning, the stress, the non stop hustle and bustle fading away. Finally we were able to take a deep breath. It was here we realized we had made it. We had made it to the place I had talked so much about in the two months leading up to this very moment. It was EPIC. The sun warmed my chilly pale legs. The only noise we heard was the muffle from the car being on as the babes stayed inside eating their happy meals. Not one car passed by. We finished the shoot still in awe of such a structure. Both of us knowing we were again racing against the sunset. We did not want to be out here past dark!

Below I shared an article from that I believe is the perfect explanation of how this iconic art came to be a stopping point on the map. Original article click here.

“The sculpture by Elmgreen & Dragset (a Scandinavian duo comprised of Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset) resembles a one-room Prada shop with a white stucco exterior, offset from the road on a dusty plot of land that is surrounded on three sides by a fence. At night, a warm glow radiates from the shelves of shoes at the back, illuminating the handbags up front and the glass façade. There’s no functioning door, which precludes actually entering or exiting. Standing in front of Prada Marfa, visitors can also see the patchy low brush and hills beyond. An empty, luxury retail shop appears to have just landed in the middle of the barren desert. Tinged with surreal humor, it’s possibly the world’s strangest boutique.”

Fourteen years later, this high-fashion ready-made has become a mecca for art enthusiasts, collectors, and pop culture devotees alike. Even Beyoncé has visited; she Instagrammed herself leaping in front of the faux Prada store in the middle of the desert. The bemusing sculpture may have suffered some wear and tear over the years, but that’s by design.

Prada Marfa is located on U.S. Highway 90 in western Texas, about a half-hour drive from the small city of Marfa. Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd first brought attention to the area when he decamped here from New York in the late 1970s, setting up a studio and inspiring the eventual rise of cultural institutions like the Chinati Foundation, adult summer camps, and boutique hotels (including El Cosmico, which offers teepee and yurt options).

“Thanks to the internet, the project has far outgrown the artists’ original intentions. In 2001, Elmgreen & Dragset mounted “Opening Soon/Powerless Structures, Fig. 242” at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Chelsea. The show featured a white sheet of paper sealing off the window, which read: “Opening Soon PRADA.” (Inside, the only work on view was a clock in the corner.) At the time, the Italian fashion brand itself was about to open its Rem Koolhaas
-designed “epicenter” in the Guggenheim Museum’s former SoHo location; the artists were wryly commenting on how fashion and branding were infiltrating the art world.  

Elmgreen & Dragset recall that people called Bonakdar, both telling her they were sorry the gallery was closing and asking who was designing the new shop. “We realized the power of fashion branding within the art world, and how prevalent this is in people’s minds,” the pair tells Artsy via email. “We got the idea of dislocating a luxury goods shop, totally out of its normal urban context, to a desolate location.” They had no idea how popular the structure would become.

Initially, Elmgreen & Dragset wanted to mount their fake Prada elsewhere; they particularly liked the sound of “Prada Nevada.” They struggled, however, to find support in the state. The New York-based Art Production Fund stepped in, connecting the artists with contacts throughout the small Texan city, including arts institution Ballroom Marfa. “Marfa turned out to be the perfect location for the work, with the nearby Judd Foundation and the legacy of Minimalism,” the pair tells Artsy. They believe that Judd’s simple sculptures, which were often made of wood or metal and could resemble furniture, impacted the future aesthetics of retail interiors. The duo views its own work as a time capsule, an investigation into how humans mark the natural world.”

“Prada Marfa has aged over time, and it still features the original, now-out-of-season luxury merchandise. Elmgreen & Dragset believe the biggest change has been the work’s increased online presence. (They note that, in 2005, Instagram wasn’t even around yet.) Beyoncé’s fandom, and the fact that a sign with mileage to Prada Marfa once adorned a Gossip Girl set, helped launch a massive audience. “Its popularity has grown in conjunction with Marfa’s as a hip art destination to visit,” the artists say.
At first, Elmgreen & Dragset wanted to let the sculpture decay without intervention or conservation, but the community opted to repair it after some episodes of vandalism (graffiti, break-ins). Over time, various tags have read “Dumb” and “Dum Dum,” and one offender posted TOMS shoes stickers all over the window in 2014. Local artist Boyd Elder now serves as Prada Marfa’s caretaker. Overtime, the sculpture has helped define the local landscape.
As for Prada, the label willingly loaned its color code, interior, shoes, and bags. “They were so cool about it, even though they understood the underlying criticism,” Elmgreen & Dragset offer. If the faux shop uses unexpected architecture to raise ideas about displacement, it also provides windows that look out onto enviable territory that’s ultimately inaccessible to the viewer. Come to think of it, that’s a bit like Instagram itself.”

Alina Cohen is a Staff Writer at Artsy.

That’s a wrap!

Off to Van Horn, TX for the night.

Thanks for following our cross country move! #macbethsmovetola


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