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Artist’s fury as Versailles ‘vagina’ vandalised

UPDATED: The British-Indian artist behind the controversial "Queen's Vagina" sculpture at Versailles has blasted an "intolerance towards art in France", after the installation was vandalised.

Artist's fury as Versailles 'vagina' vandalised
The "Queen's Vagina" at Versailles, which has been vandalised. Photo: Fabrice Seixas/Kapoor Studio

Vandals have sprayed paint on a controversial sculpture in the grounds of the Palace of Versailles that has become known as the “queen's vagina,” the estate's management said on Wednesday.

“Damage to the work 'Dirty Corner' was discovered Wednesday morning. It was lightly sprayed with paint. The work is being cleaned,” management said.

The 60-metre (200-foot) long, 10-metre (33-foot) high steel-and-rock abstract sculpture, by British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor, resembling a funnel in the form of an orifice, is set up in the garden aimed directly at the royal chateau, which attracts five million tourists a year.

The artist expressed his dismay on Thursday and lamented an “intolerance” towards art in France.

“What a tragedy. How sad,” Kapoor told Le Figaro newspaper. 

“You have to put this in perspective. If this act of vandalism says something, it's that there is a certain intolerance in France towards any kind of art.”

He added that the it was more of a “political problem than anything else”, carried out by what he said appeared to be a small but vocal minority. 

“I hope it's just a small group of people whose voice is drowned out by the others. It's a very sad phenomenon,” he added.

Inside the palace itself is a smaller work — a cannon that fired red wax at white walls, symbolising a phallus and an ejaculation of blood.

Some French media outlets have expressed unease at the level of provocation unleashed by British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor who has described the piece as “the vagina of a queen who is taking power”.

No one has claimed responsibility for vandalising the sculpture.

French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin said the vandalism was “an attack on the freedom to create” and stressed “all my support to the artist.”

SEE ALSO: When art and sex collide in France to cause a stir

 
Kapoor, who hasn't said which queen he had in mind when he created the piece, has admitted that the work was “ambitious” but said it was not so over-the-top as the scale of the opulent Versailles.
   
He later seemed to stepped away from his description of the work as “the queen's vagina”, but said he did not see why it was problematic.
   
“The point is to create a dialogue between these great gardens and the sculptures,” he told reporters on June 5.
  
In a statement, local officials from the ruling Socialist Party expressed their “indignation” over the incident, which they branded an attack against freedom of expression.
   
It is “unacceptable that art, the compass of freedom, suffer because of the obscurantism of some people”, they added.
   
Kapoor's exhibition is one of the most controversial at Versailles since the authorities in 2008 opened the palace and its grounds to contemporary artists.
   
In 2008, Versailles hosted works by the American artist Jeff Koons, and in 2010 by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.
   
In October 2014, vandals in Paris's landmark Vendome square deflated a massive sculpture by US artist Paul McCarthy that was shaped like a sex toy.
   
McCarthy then decided to take down the work, which had both outraged and tickled Parisians.
 
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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