By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 27 DECEMBER 2008 To
the consternation of the inhabitants of Versailles, some 15 works of the
American millionaire, Jeff Koons, more famous in Europe for
his marriage to ex-porn star and former Italian MP La
Cicciolina than for any artistic achievements,
are on display at the Chateau of Versailles, one of the most prestigious
of the world's heritage sites. It is where King Louis XII's hunting lodge
was transformed in the 17th century by Louis XIVth into a magnificent
palace which became the centre of his court and government, and which
represents the finest achievement of seventeenth century French art.
It was, consequently, a most odd decision to mount an
exhibition of Pop Art there, particularly as most of the visitors who paid
the 13 euro 50 entrance fee to see the palace showed more animosity than
curiosity towards the giant sized creations which detracted from the
beauty around them.
"I came to see all the wondrous treasures here", said
a Japanese tourist, "why should I have this visit spoiled by having an
ugly lobster obstructing my view? I paid to see this exceptional palace
and did not expect to have my visit marred by the intrusion of such
ridiculous objects. "
Jeff Koons: Lobster, 2003 in the Salon
"It's enough to put you off lobster for life",
muttered a woman next to him, voicing the general view that Koon's work in
such a setting was out of place.
It is, in fact, rather surprising that Jean-Jacques
Aillagon, ex- French minister of Culture now President of cultural
activities in Versailles, a man quick to object to anything inappropriate
there, agreed to display an ugly shellfish fashioned in polychrome
aluminum and coloured a vicious vermillion augmented with yellow spots,
hang down from the ceiling in the splendid Salon de Mars!
Only a few of the works aroused any interest. The
first was Balloon Flower, incongruously plonked in the Royal
courtyard as one entered the gates, and which visitors were obliged to
walk past. Coloured a bilious shade of yellow and resembling swollen
testicles rather than any existing flower, it seemed all the more shoddy
against the delicately carved, exquisite gold railings but at this point,
the reaction was one of amusement.
Jeff Koons: New Hoover Convertibles Green, Green, Red, New
Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, New Shelton Wet/Dry 5-Gallon, Displaced
Tripledecker, 1981 - 1987, in the queen's antechamber.
Inside the palace however, while several people
goggled at the second exhibit, Balloon Dog, a monstrous magenta
coloured poodle which throned in the centre of a seventeenth century
ballroom, tourists chose to have their photos taken in front of a
magnificent painting by Veronese which had been given to
Louis XIV by the Republic of Venice in 1764 while the majority of visitors
gazed in admiration at the ceiling, the largest hand-painted canvas in
Heart, too, came in for some notice
particularly by honeymooners, who, oblivious to the fact that the creation
had been bought last year for 23, 7 million dollars, chose to pose enlaced
before it. They obviously thought it was very romantic, illustrating
Koon's comment that, "This is art for the masses; I treat things with
which everyone can create a link."
But the attitude of the crowds
belied these words as they straggled past a coarse effigy of Michael Jackson in white
and gold porcelain, a bear and a policeman, a
panther, some vacuum cleaners behind a glass case, and various other
offerings. There was no one at all at Split Rocker a solid, lumpy
construction of some 1000 geraniums and pansies in clashing colours on
display in the gardens, sadly at odds with the elegant beds of flowers and
plants created by the permanent staff.
Jeff Koons: Self-Portrait, 1991 in the Salon of
Of course, few people missed Self-portrait, a
bust in white marble of the 53-year-old artist himself, whose career, it
should be pointed out, began as a trader on Wall Street. It leered down
from a pillar of imitation green marble, style Louis XV, dominating the
Salon of Apollo. Where else could Koon's portrait be put save in the
apartments of the God of (self) Love?
Jeff Koons Versailles
4 January 2009
Title photo: Jeff Koons:
Balloon Flower (Yellow), 1995-1999, Palais de Versailles
Please click here for Part 2 of this feature review:
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