While researching things to so along our Thanksgiving road trip route, I realized that on our drive from Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arziona to Lajitas, Texas and Big Bend National Park, we were going to drive through Marfa, Texas.
After stopping at the Dinosaurs vs. Aliens Museum in southern Arizona, and checking out the Recycled Roadrunner Statue in Las Cruces, New Mexico, we made a beeline to Marfa so we could get there before dark and grab some photos at the Instagram-famous Prada Marfa.
Built in 2005, Prada Marfa is a permanent art installation and fake Prada store in the middle of the West Texas desert that is stocked with real Prada shoes and bags.
Over the years, Marfa has become a mecca for art enthusiasts, collectors, and pop culture devotees alike, and the Prada Marfa has been captured in thousands of Instagram posts. Even Beyoncé has visited the pop architectural land art project.
Prada Marfa was created by Scandinavian artists Elmgreen and Dragset with the assistance of American architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello. It was financed by the Art Production Fund (APF) and Ballroom Marfa, a center of contemporary art and culture. Miuccia Prada consulted on the project, handpicked the merchandise for the store’s interior, and provided permission to Elmgreen and Dragset to use the Prada logo.
The sculpture cost $120,000 and was intended to never be repaired, so it might slowly degrade back into the natural landscape. That plan changed however when vandals graffitied the exterior and broke into the building stealing the handbags and shoes the day it was completed.
The one-room, white stucco Prada store replica was intended to criticize the rise of gross consumerism and luxury brand worship, but it ended up doing the opposite, almost paying homage to the luxury goods market. Today it is a destination for fashionistas, millennials, bloggers, travelers, photographers, and even celebrities that is seen across social media on a daily basis, and of course we snapped our own photos too!
We arrived at Prada Marfa, pulling off the side of the highway just as the sun was beginning to set. It sits immediately off the road, just in front of the railroad tracks, and is surrounded by waist-high chain-link fence on three sides. The building was marked with graffiti, the windows were dirty, there was garbage on the ground, and locks have been added to the fencing by visitors to leave their mark on the installation.
It was a cold but fun quick pit stop and now our Instagrams include the iconic faux Prada standing in the west Texas desert with a beautiful sunset behind it.
About Marfa, Texas
At 4,685 feet elevation, Marfa is a small desert city in west Texas that has become a hub for minimalism, art, and music.
Marfa was founded in the early 1880s as a railroad water stop. The town grew quickly during the 1920s and the Marfa Army Airfield served as a training facility for several thousand pilots during World War II, before closing in 1945. The base was also used as the training ground for many of the United States Army’s chemical mortar battalions.
In 1971, minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from New York City and over many years, purchased land and established large-scale art spaces and art installations. Two foundations, the Chinati Foundation and Judd Foundation, work to maintain his legacy.
In recent years, a new wave of artists has moved to Marfa to live and work. Now the area around Marfa is known as a cultural center for contemporary artists and artisans. As a result, Marfa now boasts a theater and theater groups, multifunctional art spaces, festivals, galleries, interesting and vibrant stores, musical events, indoor and outdoor art installations, sculptures, restaurants, creative lodging and more. Parada Marfa, El Cosmico, the Chinati Foundation, and the mysterious Marfa Lights are just some of it’s more popular draws.
Know Before You Go
- Prada Marfa is not in Marfa, Texas. It is in Valentine, Texas!
- Prada Marfa is located on US Highway 90, 1.4 miles northwest of Valentine, Texas 79854 and about 26 miles northwest of Marfa, Texas in Jeff Davis County.
- At one point, the Texas Department of Transportation considered it to be illegal advertising — a billboard that didn’t fit permitted specifications. To avoid removal, in 2014, the structure was reclassified as a museum, with Prada Marfa as its only exhibit.