Marfa, Texas — the high-art colony on the West Texas plains — is home to work from the 20th century’s most famous artists. But the town’s simulacra of a luxury boutique, Prada Marfa, is by far its most well-known piece (it even appeared on Beyonce’s Instagram, the highest measure of fame, last year). Now, it may face removal.
According to The New York Times, the Texas Department of Transportation has officially classified the structure as an illegal outdoor advertisement. Although the piece was paid for by a non-profit arts organisation (and the use of the logo was OK’d by Prada itself), it seems that Texas officials have decided to take issue with the six-year-old piece, which they now deem in violation of a 1965 act aimed at controlling billboards:
From the state’s perspective, the logo is defined by state and federal law as a sign. And because the “sign” sits on unlicensed land bordering federal highway U.S. 90 and lacks a permit, it violates the 1965 Highway Beautification Act signed by president Lyndon B. Johnson and championed by his wife, Lady Bird Johnson.
There’s no lack of commentary on whether the iconic shack should be torn down. But the real question is — why now? What changed since the building was built in 2005? One explanation is the recent installation of a sculpture commissioned by Playboy Magazine nearby. That piece is, in essence, a massive Playboy billboard paid for by Playboy — and it rankled in the Marfa community. Now, some are speculating that after the controversy over Playboy, local lawmakers are taking steps to crack down on Marfa’s other notable works.
So now, it seems that an age old debate in the art world — about the line between advertising and art — may be played out in the most unlikely of places: a small West Texas town. [The New York Times]
Picture: Casey McCallister/Flickr