Life Imitates Art Imitates Brand – Prada Marfa

brand design agency Melbourne

London, Paris, New York, Marfa
One of my favorite art equals brand stories is the Prada Marfa store near Valentine, Texas. Prada Marfa is a permanent work of art created by Danish artist Michael Elmgreen and Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset. Designed to pefectly replicate a Prada store, the building is made of “adobe bricks, plaster, paint, glass pane, aluminum frame, MDF, and carpet. The installation’s door is nonfunctional. On the front of the structure there are two large windows displaying genuine Prada products; shoes and handbags, personally selected and donated by Miuccia Prada herself from the fall/winter 2005 collection. Prada gave permission for Elmgreen and Dragset to use the Prada trademark for this work, having already collaborated with Elmgreen and Dragset in 2001 when the artists attached signage to the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York City with the message “Opening soon – PRADA”.

Installed in 2005, it was intended that the structure never be repaired, allowing it to slowly degrade back into the natural landscape. The plan went awry when three days after the sculpture was completed, vandals graffitied the exterior with the word “Dumb” and the phrase “Dum Dum”, and broke into the building stealing handbags and shoes (six handbags and 14 right footed shoes). The sculpture was repaired, repainted, and restocked, the product being replaced gratis by Prada. The new Prada purses contain a security system that alerts authorities if the bags are ever moved again.

brand identity designers Melbourne

Life Imitates Art Imitates Brand Design.
Since 2005 the Prada Marfa Store has become something of a tourist attraction in its own right. A quick scan of Google Images shows how popular the store is with people from all over the world detouring to Marfa to check it out for themselves. The work of art has not only become iconic in its own right, but now represents the most photographed and most highly recognised Prada store in the world, adding to the Prada’s brand storytelling.

Whilst many brands may have shied-away from being connected with an edgy arts project like this one, Prada showed the fortitude and vision to embrace the opportunity. And as this artistic/brand gesture shows, design and art can make wonderful bed-fellows. In a strange ritual of art meets commerce hundreds of people each year leave their business cards along a ledge that runs around the base of the building, weighed down by small rocks.

Dave Ansett, Brandamentalist
Creator of Art & Brands
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  1. This is a rich area for brands, the blurred line between art and advertising. To be successful it needs to be genuine, and crafted with care.

    Interesting they repaired after the vandalism, it’s normally the first step for any other building’s degradation into the environment, but was not suitable for this special building? Are they going to continue to undo other degrading steps?

    • I have never really felt an urge to visit Texas, but this piece makes me think perhaps I should. What an interesting piece of brand storytelling! It’s great to see a brand step outside its comfort zone and attempt something truly unique. And Derek, great point about the vandalism. I wonder if it was the specific words that they didn’t approve of or if it is any piece of vandalism??

  2. Interesting point Derek. I wonder how Prada would have felt about the blurred line once the image of their store had been vandalized. The integrity of the art piece is likely to have been at odds with the integrity of the Prada brand here.

  3. Thanks Nikki, those are the other brands playing out here – the place brands of Mafra, Valentine and Texas, which have become inextricably linked and for the most part very positively associated to such a great gesture of art and brand.

  4. I love the idea that you could be driving down this deserted highway in Mafra and stumble across this Prada store. Kudos to Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. An excellent brand focused art piece that creates a great deal of discussion about brandings presence in todays society and landscape.

  5. You’re welcome Kim, the space where art and brands overlap is certainly an interesting one. When done well it can create some interesting and engaging brand experiences as this collaboration shows.

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