Kissing art exhibition vandalized in France

A series of blown-up portraits of straight and gay couples kissing has been vandalized in western France, with the artist himself questioning whether romance in France was only a "heterosexual concept".

Kissing art exhibition vandalized in France
One of the slashed pictures from the exhibition. Photo: Thibault Stipal/Facebook

Could France be losing it's title as the country of romance? 

This is the country where you're likely to see locals and tourists alike engaged in the most passionate of embraces… where films, TV series, and photographs have become famous for their own versions of the “French kiss”. 
But this could all be changing, or at least in the western town of Royan in Charente-Maritime. There, at least one local has apparently struggled to accept seeing images of people kissing. 
The portraits, taken by artist Thibault Stipal, show topless people with varying skin colours, sexual preferences, and ages sharing kisses. They were erected near a children's park and were slashed up over the weekend. 

(Another of the slashed pictures from the exhibition. Photo: Thibault Stipal/Facebook)
The artist has now taken to his Facebook page to share images of the damage, telling his fans the act left him “saddened” – but explained that it's not all been negative reviews. 
“Some people have written love messages on the photos and others have cut it with knives,” he told The Local on Wednesday.
And he suspects that it was the images of same-sex kissers that riled the vandals. 
“Maybe French romance is a heterosexual concept because people here have got a real problem with gays I think,” he added.
“People who disagree with my exhibition tell that it's because it was installed in a park where children play but it's hypocrisy. There's nothing shocking in my project, it's simply photos of people kissing.”
While he added that he was sure the vandals were only “a small percentage” of the public, their actions mean the damage won't be repaired.
Royan's deputy mayor Didier Quentin told  BFMTV that the “foolish act of intolerance” mean art would not reappear this summer, as the costs of reproducing the work and the risk of repeat attacks were too high. 

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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”.