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Artist held after Eiffel Tower coq stunt

Tourists gasping and grinning up at the Eiffel Tower in Paris this week got a shock when a notorious artist emerged before them with his penis reportedly tied to a rooster by ribbon, and dressed in a corset and tights.

Artist held after Eiffel Tower coq stunt
South African artist Steven Cohen performing with a cockerel attached to his penis by a ribbon at Trocadero in Paris on September 10th, before his arrest. Photo: Quentin Evrard

Millions of wide-eyed tourists visit the Eiffel Tower every year, but on Tuesday morning a handful of them were treated, depending on your viewpoint, to a highly unusual spectacle.

At around 9.30 am, South African artist Steven Cohen emerged from a car and joined the crowds at Place du Trocadero, under the shadow of the world-famous monument, for a spot of breakfast-time performance art.

But what ensued wasn’t the break-dancing or portrait-painting typical of Parisian tourist landmarks.

Dressed in a bird outfit, and shuffling over to a prominent spot on the public square, Cohen began dancing about, with no less than a cock tied to his penis with a long ribbon.

In high-heeled platform shoes and wearing a corset, thigh-length tights, and long red gloves, and with long, wild feathers emanating from his head and hands, Cohen began “walking” the chicken up and down before crowds of tourists.

“He danced with the cock for around ten minutes, before being arrested by the police,” his lawyer Agnes Tricoire told French daily Le Parisien.

Perhaps inevitably, Cohen was held by Paris police on charges of indecent exposure, before being released later in the day.

His lawyer expressed her disgust with the duration of his arrest, telling Le Parisien: “It’s a disgrace. With this performance, Steven Cohen wanted to evoke his situation, split between two countries.”

“South Africa, his native land, and France, where he lives at the moment,” she explained. “France is throwing artists in prison,” she added.


A close up shows Cohen "walking" the cockerel, wearing high-heeled platform shoes, tights and a garter. Photo: Quentin Evrard.

While Cohen was released from questioning on Tuesday evening, he is due to appear in court on December 16th.

Cohen was born in South Africa in 1962, according to the Stevenson agency’s website, but currently lives in Lille, in northern France.

“He is a performance artist who stages interventions in the public realm and in gallery/theatre spaces. His work invariably draws attention to that which is marginalised in society, starting with his own identity as a gay, Jewish man,” the South African agency says.

His performance art piece “Sphincterography: The Tour – Johannesburg (The Politics of an Arsehole)” has been included in this year’s Festival d’Automne at La Maison Rouge in Paris.

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TOURISM

Eiffel Tower reopens from its longest closure since World War II

The Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors on Friday for the first time in nine months following its longest closure since World War II.

Eiffel Tower reopens from its longest closure since World War II
The Eiffel Tower reopens on Friday. Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP

The lifts of the Dame de fer (Iron Lady) are set to whir back into life, transporting tourists to its 300-metre summit, ending a long period of inactivity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Daily capacity is restricted to 13,000 people, however, about half of the normal level, in order to respect social distancing.

And from Wednesday next week, visitors will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test, in line with recent government-imposed requirements on the pass sanitaire (health passport).

READ ALSO How France’s expanded health passport will work this summer

“Obviously it’s an additional operational complication, but it’s manageable,” the head of the operating company, Jean-François Martins, told AFP.

After a final round of safety checks by staff, he announced that the “lady is ready”.

Early reservations for tickets during the summer holiday period underline how the tourism industry in Paris has changed due to travel restrictions.

Martins said there was an “almost total absence” of British ticket holders, while only 15 percent were Americans and very few are from Asia.

READ ALSO Eiffel Tower: 13 things you didn’t know about Paris’ ‘iron lady’

Half of visitors are expected to be French, while Italians and Spanish make up a higher proportion than usual.

The long closure has caused havoc with the finances of the operating company, Sete, which runs the monument on behalf of Paris city authorities.

It is set to seek additional government aid and a fresh €60-million cash injection to stay afloat, having seen its revenues fall by 75 percent to €25 million in 2020.

The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has also been hit by problems linked to its latest paint job, the 20th time it has been repainted since its construction in 1889.

Work was halted in February because of high levels of lead detected on the site, which poses a health risk to workers.

Tests are still underway and painting is set to resume only in the autumn, meaning a part of the facade is obscured by scaffolding and safety nets.

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