After last week’s media blitz about the most recent defacing/art-application (up to you!) to Prada Marfa by an artist/vandal (also, up to you!) called 9271977, Ballroom Marfa, the art organization tasked with looking after the remote fake storefront, has updated the “Prada Marfa Explainer,” Ballroom Marfa’s place for answering some of the tangled conceptual FAQs about the artwork and its site. The updates are in response to the sweeping criticisms that Prada Marfa is, by nature, an entropic art object, made to deteriorate and suffer abuse, both environmental and artistic/vandalistic. As one Glasstire reader, citing Wikipedia, pointed out last week in this space: “The act of protecting and repairing this art work is vandalism. Prada Marfa ‘was intended to never be repaired, so it might slowly degrade back into the natural landscape.’ People are natural things and vandalism is a byproduct of nature, so repairing a work that is supposed to be degraded by nature is vandalism.”
Glasstire’s anonymous comment, albeit twisted with a funny logic, was not singular, as the “Prada Marfa Explainer” implies with this new FAQ, underscoring, perhaps, the sometimes entropic nature of conceptual intentions, as well:
Why is there any maintenance of Prada Marfa? Isn’t it supposed to become a ruin?
When Elmgreen & Dragset erected Prada Marfa in 2005, they, along with the producers Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa, proposed that the public art project would exist at the mercy of the elements and visitors. As Art Production Fund’s Yvonne Force Villareal told the New York Times before its opening, “We loved the idea of the piece being born on Oct. 1 and that it will never again be maintained. If someone spray-paints graffiti or a cowboy decides to use it as target practice or maybe a mouse or a muskrat makes a home in it, 50 years from now it will be a ruin that is a reflection of the time it was made.”
The reality of leaving Prada Marfa completely untouched is a complicated and multifaceted issue. The site is far from pristine, as visitors will already know; however, all parties realized that if the structure were allowed to fully decay, it would become both a hazard and an eyesore. With the blessing of Elmgreen & Dragset, the work’s original plan was modified shortly after it was constructed in 2005. Since it is a public installation, Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa are required by law to perform a certain level of repairs in the interest of safety. And out of respect to the residents of Valentine, we paint over graffiti and clean up trash at the site as needed. Performing this minimal maintenance remains true to the spirit of Elmgreen & Dragset’s original proposal, and it also allows us to keep the installation accessible to the public.