Musée d’Orsay shocks with erotic promo video

This week The Local is handing its prestigious "Only in France" award to Paris's famous Musée d’Orsay, whose promotional video for its new exhibition has got pulses racing beyond the French art world. Let's just say it's "Not Safe For Work".

Musée d'Orsay shocks with erotic promo video
"This is not just marketing. This is art". That's why the Musée d'Orsay gets The Local's "Only in France" award this week. Photo: Musée d'Orsay

Dozens of people lie naked on the floor, all intertwined in a writhing, squirming mess, as arms reach up grabbing and groping at the bare flesh.

It might sound like a scene from one of DSK’s notoriously sordid sex parties, but it is in fact a video advertising a new exhibition at Paris’s famous Musée d’Orsay.

The Musée d’Orsay, which stands on the banks of the River Seine has been forced to defend itself this week over its provocative marketing campaign for its new exhibition “Sade: Attacking the Sun” (Sade. Attaquer le soleil), which opened this week.

The exhibition is aimed at highlighting the literature of France’s notorious philosopher turned erotic writer the Marquis de Sade through various artworks by painters such as Goya, Gericault, Rodin and Picasso.

But the promotional video for the exhibition does not feature these works, which was described by one French media outlet as “most unexpected from a cultural institution”.

“This is not just marketing, there is real artistic work behind this,” a spokesperson for the museum told the Nouvel Obs magazine.

Decide for yourself by watching the video below and ask yourself could you imagine London's National Gallery doing a similar marketing campaign?

(WARNING: This clip contains lots and lots of nudity)

Given the nature of the video, what is perhaps more expected is how popular it’s proved.

Since it went online on October 8th, it has been viewed over 150,000 times – however Musée d’Orsay bosses shouldn’t perhaps count on all those viewers turning up for the exhibition.

The promotional clip hasn’t proved everyone’s cup of tea and after several people expressed their outrage it was banned from being viewed by minors on YouTube due to its sexual nature.

For their part the Musée d’Orsay has apparently enjoyed the buzz that the video has made.

Join the debate about the video on our Facebook page

“I understand the video may be disturbing but at the same time the subject of the exhibition is demonic. When you visit Sade, you don’t expect to see something conventional,” a member of the museum’s management told Nouvel Obs.

The museum basically summed up their decision to plump for semi-erotic video by explaining that they had difficulty coming up with ideas for other visuals.

“In the end we decided to film the naked bodies rather than the artworks,” said the museum.

The Musée d’Orsay has history when it comes naked flesh.

Last year it’s exhibition “Male Nude” saw the assets of Naked men displayed in the hallowed halls of the museum.

The controversial exhibition displayed 200 works about male nudity dating as far back to 1800 and had the art world in Paris buzzing.

Last week's "Only in France" award was won by two politicians who had a heated grammar debate in the National Assembly. SEE LINK BELOW

Only in France: French lawmaker fined over grammar dispute

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Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles

Rising high beyond an ancient Roman arena in Arles, a tall, twisted tower created by Frank Gehry shimmers in the sun, the latest futuristic addition to this southern French city known for its World Heritage sites.

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles
Gehry's Luma Tower opens in Arles, France. Photo: H I / Pixabay

The tower, which opens to the public on Saturday, is the flagship attraction of a new “creative campus” conceived by the Swiss Luma arts foundation that wants to offer artists a space to create, collaborate and showcase their work.

Gehry, the 92-year-old brain behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, wrapped 11,000 stainless steel panels around his tower above a huge glass round base.

It will house contemporary art exhibitions, a library, and offices, while the Luma Arles campus as a whole will host conferences and live performances.

From a distance, the structure reflects the changing lights of this town that inspired Van Gogh, capturing the whiteness of the limestone Alpilles mountain range nearby which glows a fierce orange when the sun sets.

Mustapha Bouhayati, the head of Luma Arles, says the town is no stranger to
imposing monuments; its ancient Roman arena and theatre have long drawn the

The tower is just the latest addition, he says. “We’re building the heritage of tomorrow.”

Luma Arles spreads out over a huge former industrial wasteland.

Maja Hoffmann, a Swiss patron of the arts who created the foundation, says
the site took seven years to build and many more years to conceive.

Maja Hoffmann, founder and president of the Luma Foundation. Photo: Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Aside from the tower, Luma Arles also has exhibition and performance spaces in former industrial buildings, a phosphorescent skatepark created by South Korean artist Koo Jeong A and a sprawling public park conceived by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.

‘Arles chose me’

The wealthy great-granddaughter of a founder of Swiss drug giant Roche, Hoffmann has for years been involved in the world of contemporary art, like her grandmother before her.

A documentary producer and arts collector, she owns photos by Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus and says she hung out with Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York.

Her foundation’s stated aim is to promote artists and their work, with a special interest in environmental issues, human rights, education and culture.

She refuses to answer a question on how much the project in Arles cost. But as to why she chose the 53,000-strong town, Hoffmann responds: “I did not choose Arles, Arles chose me.”

She moved there as a baby when her father Luc Hoffmann, who co-founded WWF,
created a reserve to preserve the biodiversity of the Camargue, a region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhone river delta known for its pink flamingos.

The tower reflects that, with Camargue salt used as mural panels and the
delta’s algae as textile dye.

Hoffmann says she wants her project to attract more visitors in the winter, in a town where nearly a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line.

Some 190 people will be working at the Luma project over the summer, Bouhayati says, adding that Hoffman has created an “ecosystem for creation”.