The Prada store in Marfa has a new neighbor over in the badlands of Texas: A giant neon-white Playboy bunny sign. The installation hovers over a matte black 1972 Dodge Charger resting on the surface of a concrete plinth. The project is the first in a series of installations the Playboy brand has unofficially dubbed "Playboy Marfa." Under the creative direction of Neville Wakefield, they've enlisted cult-artist Richard Phillips to spearhead the project and create a vision that'll appeal to a younger generation of Playboy readers.
And essentially, Playboy is looking back in order to look forward; seeking to re-brand themselves as the quintessential cultural magazine that it once was. The illuminated bunny head serves as a kind of north star in the West Texas desert. "That Playboy emblem is a beacon, a touchstone where all these different aspects of our lives — art, politics, sex — come together without contradiction,” Richard Phillips said to The New York Times . It's a bold brand push, but a move in the right direction. They could have easily created an oversized neon playmate, which would have been taking the easy way out. Sure, the nude centerfold is recognizable, but it's a mere facet of their brand that's become its synecdoche. Consequently, Playboy's influence in the literary and political worlds has been glanced over, at best.
But, let's not forget that the world got its first taste of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 in 1954 in the pages of Playboy, and now the book is a staple of middle school english curriculums. The philosopher Marshall McLuhan was a columnist, and Asa Baber helped shatter the taboo of men opening up about their issues. That's why the bunny head represents so much more than sex. Phillips' decision to place an iconic American car on top of a cement sculpture, whose non-perpendicular relationship to the ground gives the impression that it's toppling over, strips the piece of its hyper-masculinity. All the while, the bunny head glows, ominously assuring Marfa and its vistors that the brand is still strong.
With all of that said, whether it's art or one big advertisement is up for debate, so have at it in the comments.
Photo: Courtesy of Playboy.