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Versailles ‘giant vagina’ causes stir in France

Another row over art has kicked off in France this week after a massive sculpture, supposedly representing the "vagina of a queen", has been installed on the gardens of the historic Versailles Palace.

Versailles 'giant vagina' causes stir in France
Photo: Fabrice Seixas/Kapoor Studio
Last year it was a giant butt plug in Paris, now its a giant vagina at Versailles that is causing a stir in France.
 
Artist Anish Kapoor has turned heads in France after he told a French newspaper that his latest piece of artwork represented “the queen's vagina” taking power.
 
The monument, which is called Dirty Corner, is a gigantic steel funnel among broken rocks, with a deep opening facing the Palace of Versailles itself.
 
It's set to be opened to the public on Tuesday June 9th, as part of Kapoor's entire installation which boasts other large monuments including a whirlpool.
 
France, of course, doesn't have a queen, so it remains unclear exactly to which royal family member the British-Indian sculptor is referring – though some have guessed Marie Antoinette.
 
Others, however, have chosen to focus their attention on the idea that a vagina has suddenly appeared on the famed Tapis de Vert section of the gardens.
 
The local mayor, François de Mazières, tweeted that Kapoor had “slipped up” and traditionalist right wing bloggers have protested that its hardly ideal for a family day out. Others have taken to Twitter to call for a boycott.
 
Le Parisien said that Kapoor was a “genius provocateur” but added that members of the public were shocked a vagina could be installed in such a formal setting.
 
Others hailed the concept, with daily Le Figaro noting that any controversy at all would only bring more visitors.
 
And the fuss at Versailles wasn't all about a giant vagina.
 
A total of six pieces by Kapoor will be on display in the palace and its gardens.
 
One piece, called “Shooting Into the Corner”, which features a canon firing 5kg “balls” of red wax against a wall (see photo below).
 
It will be the first contemporary artwork ever shown inside the palace's Jeu de Paume Room but Kapoor himself described it as an “obvious phallic symbol… to question the violence in our contemporary society”. 
 
 
 
The chances are that crowds will flock to see the grand opening, if Kapoor's track record in France is anything to go by.
 
Close to 300,000 people visited his giant sculpture Monumenta when it was unveiled in the Grand Palais in Paris in 2011 (see below).

France has a long and colourful history when it comes to art and sex colliding head on ( see link below). In October last year, US artist Paul McCarthy faced criticism (and vandalism) after unveiling what appeared to be a giant butt plug in central Paris.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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ARCHITECTURE

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
crowds.

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”.

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