Contemporary art News USA

Prada Marfa vandalised again

Elmgreen & Dragset's work defaced this weekend will reopen when restored

The Prada storefront by Elmgreen & Dragset installed in the middle of the Texas desert was badly defaced with blue paint and insulation foam. Photo: Rita Weigart

Elmgreen & Dragset’s Prada Marfa in Texas was badly defaced this weekend. The conceptual storefront by the Scandinavian artists has been a target for local vandals since it went up in 2005, although the damage has been limited to patches of graffiti and bullet holes in the windows. The project is regularly repaired by the organisations that commissioned it, Ballroom Marfa and the Art Production Fund, but according to Ballroom Marfa’s blog, this most recent attack was different.

The site “is now coated in toxic paint while the insulation foam garbage left behind by the defacer(s) blows across the highway and into the landscape”, the organisation says. While Ballroom Marfa says it welcomes engagement and criticism of such public art, “the large-scale defacement of the structure overwhelms this forum and shuts down the dialogue”.

"It is crazy that we have come to a point in our culture where some individuals in their insane egomania, eager to obtain a bit of attention, start attacking other artists' works," Elmgreen and Dragset say in an email. "We saw it recently when a work by Ai Weiwei was smashed in Florida and now with the attack on Prada Marfa. Unlike movements such as Occupy Wall Street, these acts of vandalism have nothing to do with political activism—they are only symptoms of some disturbed minds' personal vanity. To believe that you can fight something like social inequality by overpainting a sculptural work in the Texan dessert with toxic blue paint is pretty off the target."

Ballroom Marfa says it will fully restore Prada Marfa, and keep it open as a public site, although no further decisions on the vandalism have been made. The organisation’s director, Melissa McDonnell Luján, says the damage is extensive. “The adobe walls are covered in a pigmented stucco, thus we might not be able to simply repaint. There is significant damage to the awnings, which means they will have to be replaced and there was glue applied to the poly-carbonate windows, which can’t be scraped,” Luján says. “After speaking with our insurance agent we will be estimating damage but we expect it to easily exceed our annual maintenance budget.” The organisation does not yet have a dedicated campaign to help restore the site, but people interested in supporting Ballroom Marfa can contribute through its membership page.

“There is a lot of appreciation for Prada Marfa not just by tourist but by the local community,” Luján says. “Some Valentine residents immediately cleaned up the materials early on Sunday and I doubt very many people were able to even see this persons ‘statement’, only the remnants of the destruction it caused and the debris blowing into the fields beyond.”

Ballroom Marfa adds that it is close to a resolution with the Texas Department of Transportation, which classified the work as an illegal advertisement last year and could have ordered its removal. “We expect Prada Marfa will be around for years to come,” it says on its blog. “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.”

Update:This article was updated on 12 March 2014 to include a statement from the artists.

The costs to repair the damage could easily exceed Ballroom Marfa's annual maintenance budget for the site
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