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Art and Branding: A Collision in the Desert

Art is about mythmaking.

Branding is about creating value.

Value creation also can involve mythmaking.

Since branding and art both involve mythmaking, it seems natural for art and branding to collide. That is exactly what happened with Prada Marfa.

Many people are quite familiar with Prada, the Italian fashion company which holds prime space in elite urban shopping centers around the globe. When Prada opens a new store in downtown Tokyo…well that is something that is expected.
What is completely unexpected is to find a Prada in Marfa, Texas. The town of Marfa is located in the West Texas desert near the Mexican border. It has a population of 2,121 and is about 9 hours drive from San Antonio.

In 2005, two Scandinavian artists installed a Prada mini-boutique in the desert 26 miles from Marfa. This sculpture is a 15 by 25 foot adobe building designed to look just like a Prada store, and even contains Prada merchandise. The main differences between this sculpture created by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset and a real Prada store are:
 It is completely out of context
 It is a mini version
 It will never open
 It will not be maintained

Well, the last item is debatable. The sculpture was vandalized soon after it was finished. Shoes were stolen and the building was spray painted with graffiti. After that break-in happened a handyman restored the building.

Art and clothing are intertwined. Clothing is already woven with myth. If you think about the functional value of clothing on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs you simply need clothes to stay warm. If that is all that mattered about clothing, then a $3 shirt, $10 pants, and $5 sandals from Walmart would suffice. That is a complete ensemble for less than $20. So, why then do people spend upwards of $500 on a mere shirt from Prada?

Clothing is transformational. It is aspirational. It is enveloped with social meaning. People are paying $3 for the shirt and $497 on symbolism.

By supporting the artists in this desert adventure, Prada reinforces its sphere of meaning beyond simple utility of clothing. As doing so it becomes a more interwoven part of the lexicon of the art world. And the myth grows.


- Prada Marfa website

- article


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