Every year since 2008 The Chateau de Versailles has invited an international contemporary artist to install a show in the palace and the gardens. Past artists included Jeff Koons, Murakami, Giuseppe Penone and Lee Ufan.
This year the chosen artist is Anish Kapoor, who was also invited to install his work Leviathan at Monumenta at the Grand Palais in 2011. Every artist brings their own interpretation of the meaning of Versailles and Kapoor decided to be political by focusing on the power of King Louis XIV, as it is the three hundredth anniversary of his death this year. There are four sculptures in the gardens and one in the Jeu de paume in the palace.
Although France likes to encourage and invite contemporary artists to show their work in public spaces, it many times comes with controversy. The Jeff Koons exhibit at Versailles was highly criticized, as well as Murakami, by critics and the public and last October, a sculpture of a Christmas tree by Paul McCarthy installed in the Place Vendome for the FIAC art fair, was interpreted to be a giant butt plug. Controversy followed and the sculpture was deflated twice by vandals and eventually voluntarily removed by the artist due to immense pressure.
The centerpiece of the Kapoor installation is titled The Queen’s Vagina, a massive funnel shaped sculpture made of rusted steel. It goes without saying the title and the work created an uproar and a few days after the exhibition opened, vandals snuck into the gardens after hours and defaced the sculpture by spraying yellow paint all over it. Unfortunately they were still cleaning the paint off of it the day I visited and the machine in the front part of the sculpture marred most of my photos.
I found the most interesting sculpture to be the round metal disc on a tripod, rising high above the garden. It was a partly sunny day I was there and the clouds and blue sky reflecting on to the disc made for some intriguing and otherworldly photos.
I have always been a fan of Jean Michel Othoniel’s work and wrote about his wonderful retrospective a few years ago at the Pompidou Museum. Most of Othoniel’s current works involve the use colored Murano glass spheres.
A number of years ago the Palace decided to restore the Water Theater Grove in the gardens. Following an international competition for a landscape artist for the restoration, landscape designer Louis Benech and Jean-Michel Othoniel were chosen. Creating three sculptures using his signature Murano glass beads in a golden hue, Othoniel was directly inspired by the ballets danced by Louis XIV and described in The Art of Describing Dance by Raoul-Auger Feuillet in 1701.
Anish Kapoor at Versailles till November 9, 2015
Jean Michel Othoniel and Louis Benech at Versailles
Permanent installation at the Water Theater Grove
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I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 195 euros per person (about $210)
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