It seems the media rarely pays attention to art until it reaches the extreme… astronomical auction prices, unconventional materials or something deemed “offensive” (... like Paul McCarthy's butt plug that was removed from its site and the artist was punched in the face on the streets of Paris.) I’m an artist myself and am guilty of writing about work for those very reasons. So of course, Anish Kapoor has sparked an uproar in France by installing a huge work on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. In 2008, Versailles opened the palace and hosted a contemporary exhibit of work by Jeff Koons, which has yet to be equalled, in my opinion. With the exception of Chisto‘s The Gates in Central Park, it remains the most incredible contemporary art installation ever.
Kapoor’s 200-foot long, 33-foot high steel-and-rock sculpture, called Dirty Corner is set up in the garden, which attracts five million visitors a year. He told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche a week ago that the sculpture was meant to be blatantly sexual, and regal. He said;
“Facing the castle, there will be a mysterious sculpture of rusted steel 10 meters high, weighing thousands of tons, with stones and blocks all around. Again sexual in nature: the vagina of the queen who took power.”
He didn’t say WHICH queen, but added that while the work was “ambitious”, it was not as over-the-top as the scale of the palace and grounds. Inside is a canon that fired red wax at white walls in a symbol of the phallus and ejaculation of blood. The conservative daily Le Figaro saw the work as an effort
“to use Versailles as an object of contrast between two types of art”
But at a media conference later, the artist seemed to back away from his description a bit. Kapoor told reporters;
“I don’t remember saying it. I don’t see why it’s problematic – sexual organs being universal. The point is to create a dialogue between these great gardens and the sculptures.”
The French official in charge of Versailles, Catherine Pegard, said that what was of interest to Kapoor was “the hidden chaos” of the gardens designed by Andre Le Notre, the 17th century landscape architect who designed its strict lines.
The man in charge of the exhibition, Alfred Pacquement, said the gardens formed a contrasting background for Anish Kapoor’s work.
“The dark cavity is an ever-present theme in Kapoor’s work. He brings out contradiction with perspective, upending its (the garden’s) order” while taking into account the large scale of Versailles.”
Regardless, I’d like to get to Versailles (I’ve never been, if you can believe!?) and see that giant rusty vagina, the red wax canon, the grounds reflected and the whirlpool… they seem to all reflect and amplify the nastiness that inevitably lies beneath all obscene opulence and extravagant wealth.