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For the first time in almost 15 years, the artists Elmgreen & Dragset have returned to an installation they expected to just disappear
When the Scandinavian artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset erected Prada Marfa, a sculptural, non-functioning replica of a luxury Prada boutique, on the edge of a lonely west Texas highway, they imagined that it would end up like the remote Land Art of the 60s and 70s. In the absence of modern social media, it would quietly erode into the landscape before anyone ever really got a chance to see it.
It would exist more as documentation and a rumor, Dragset recalled, and at some point just disappear.
But rather than fade away, Prada Marfa defied the artists expectations, mutating into a cultural sensation over the years. It appeared on The Simpsons and in Beyoncs Instagram feed, having attracted countless other social media influencers. It has weathered the elements, a legal threat and repeated acts of vandalism.
Recently, when the Berlin-based artists returned to the site for the first time in nearly 15 years, they found a sculpture that had taken on a life of its own.
It became a symbol beyond our expectations, or individual ideas, in good ways and bad, said Elmgreen during the recent visit, bringing to light the friction between the public and public art, artistic intention and outcome. For Dragset, Prada Marfa had become a lens to view the passage of time, changes in how we use technology to perceive a site, or an experience, he said, particularly in terms of selfie culture. Nothing is worth anything unless you have your face in front of it.