September 16, 2010

Japanese pop art Buddha sculpture causes stir at Versailles

A recent art installation at the Versailles Palace is causing a stir among the French. Pieces of sculpture Takashi Murakami's modern artwork---including the 18-foot "Oval Buddha"---are set to appear in a two-month exhibition entitled Murakami Versailles that will fill the rooms of the World Heritage site. The exhibit, which opened this week, has protesters who don't believe that Japanese Pop Art has a place on the palace grounds. Via the Japan Times:

There are many who fail to see the link between the splendour of France's royal palace and the manga-inspired work of Takashi Murakami and, as the Japanese provocateur prepares to unveil a controversial exhibition of his sculptures, the stately calm of the chateau has been disrupted by an unseemly row over contemporary art.

Ahead of next week's opening, which will feature 22 of Murakami's eye-catching works go on show in the salons and gardens of Versailles, more than 11,000 people have signed petitions claiming the show is degrading and disrespectful. Royalist activists, convinced it is also illegal, have protested outside the palace gates.

But for the artist, filling the historical landmark with contemporary art serves as a bridge between traditional and modern art. From the Versailles website:

Murakami Versailles is a walk, a trail through the “landscape area” of Versailles. For his first major retrospective in France, in the 15 rooms of the Château and in the gardens, the artist presents 22 major works, of which 11 have been created exclusively for this exhibition. The general public will be able to view and admire his creations, which are often technical masterpieces. The allegories and other myths of Versailles thus carry on a dialogue with the dreamlike creatures of Takashi Murakami, sometimes inspired by traditional Japanese art. “I seek to produce a creative process which is a bridge between the past and the future” he likes to remind us.

What do you think of Murakami's artwork appearing in Versailles? To learn more about the exhibit, click here.


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Kris's picture

So much for being transported to pre-Revolutionary times...It's dificult to get a perspective on the historical implications of the site itself when Hello Kitty is staring you in the face.

Claudette's picture

As a tourist looking forward to seeing the splendour of the rooms in the palace, I was disgusted to see these hidious sculptures that were SO out of place. How do you take proper photos with these Euro Disney sculptures in the frame???
Whoever authorized this exhibition should have their head examined!

Catherine Spaeth's picture

I guess Jeff Koons vanity poses fit in a little better? People really did love those installations at Versailles. Here is something humorous I wrote after seeing Oval Buddha in a corporate lobby in NY:

"In short, the traveling gnome is a cultural expression of our own time where sculpture's conditions of publicity are in its mobility." It was striking to me that monumental sculpture is now something that appears as a temporary mobile and staged event. I am curious about this exhibition and suspect that despite the negative commentary you cite there will also be much delight in the folly, and how wonderful to have a giant Buddha on the lotus seat at the center of it all.