A line in the morning’s itinerary caught my eye: “We take a mid-morning break at the Prada Store in Marfa.” We were on an 8-day mainly hiking trip in the very dry and remote Chihuahuan Desert in southwest Texas. What’s with the Prada store?

I learned from our guides, and some additional research after I returned home, that Marfa, TX is a very special community of 1,500 folks; a slightly off-center, artsy place – and some would say it’s a little weird.

A Google search returns this about Marfa… “Marfa, a small desert city in west Texas, is known as an arts hub. The Chinati Foundation, founded by artist Donald Judd, displays huge indoor and outdoor installations on an old army base. The Ballroom Marfa Arts Center hosts exhibitions, concerts, and the Marfa Myths cultural festival. Outside town is a viewing platform from which the mysterious orbs known as the “Marfa Lights” phenomenon can sometimes be seen.

Additionally, a few movies have been filmed in Marfa. Among them Giant – starring James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson. We passed by this roadside display at the ranch where many of its scenes were shot.

Prada - Giant

One piece of art the Ballroom Marfa Arts Center supports is the Prada Store exhibit – our reason for taking a “mid-morning break” here.

The Center describes this piece of art as “a site specific, permanent land art project by artists Elmgreen & Dragset, commissioned by Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa. Modeled after a Prada boutique, the sculpture houses luxury goods from the famed brand’s fall 2005 collection of bags and shoes. Located on a barren stretch of highway one mile west of Valentine TX, the artwork will never function as a place of commerce, since the door is always locked.

A couple of interesting facts:

The exhibit is built of a biodegradable adobe-like substance that is meant to slowly melt back into the earth, serving as a surrealist commentary on western materialism.

After being vandalized the night after the exhibit was complete in 2005, Prada Marfa was repaired, and extra precautions were taken to prevent another looting. All handbags on display have no bottoms and all of the shoes are only right footed.

There’s a chain link around the sides and on the backside of the structure upon which folks have placed padlocks – the worldwide tradition of the “love lock” has reached the desert of Texas!

The Prada group describes their participation and support for the project on their website here.

Prada - Store

Having stretched our legs and checked out this piece of art, we headed on down the road to Guadalupe Mountains National Park for a picnic lunch. We didn’t stick around to check out those nightly bright orbs of white, yellow, pink, blue, and red mysterious “Marfa Lights” that some say have been dancing above the horizon since first being sighted in 1883.