The Battle Over Murakami's Versailles Exhibit
Versailles has gotten a little whimsical kick lately in the form of an exhibit from Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami. But according to the Wall Street Journal, not everyone is a fan. Prince Sixte-Henri de Bourbon-Parmet, a descendant of Louis XIV wants to stop the exhibit long before it is set to end in December. The prince says that the colorful exhibit dishonors his family and French culture in general.
The exhibit at the Château de Versailles is set to run September 14 through December 12 and features installations in the gilded Hall of Mirrors as well as other palace rooms. The exhibit includes a total of 22 works by Murakami. Of the 22 works on display in 15 rooms, 11 were created specifically for this event. Before the exhibit opened in September a group called the Coordination Défense de Versailles launched a petition against the installation. It has now gathered over 7,000 signatures. The Murakami Versailles Facebook page is full of people giving their opinions. Some find the exhibit fabulous, others see it as an outrage.
ArtInfo rounded up a bunch of responses from critics around the world and found a similar polarity of thought. Le Figaro blogger Sébastien Le Fol commented that the show was cute and appealing but found that the pieces didn't really engage with the surroundings in Versailles. Many of the critics mentioned that they were sure that the exhibit, with its bright colors and manga inspiration, would be popular but that it as Le Monde art critic Harry Bellet said, "it makes you think that contemporary art collectors are big kids."
A similar outcry was heard when American pop artist brought his oversized shiny baubles to Versailles in 2008. Pieces like Koons' "Balloon Dog" shown above, were placed inside many palace rooms and outside the palace attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors. That time, as BBC News reports, it was Prince Sixte-Henri's nephew, Prince Charles-Emmanuel de Bourbon-Parme who took on the task of trying to stop the exhibit. His lawsuit called the exhibit "a desecration and an attack on the respect due to the dead" and said that he and his family had "right of access to their heritage without pornographic restraint." Although Koons had created many pieces that featured his ex-wife Italian porn star La Ciccolina, none of those items were on display at Versailles. The prince's efforts failed in the courts.
In an artist's statement on the Murakami Versailles website, Murakami says: "For a Japanese like me, the Château de Versailles is one of the greatest symbols of Western history. It is the emblem of an ambition for elegance, sophistication and art that most of us can only dream of." He speaks to the legacy of the building and also of using it as a springboard for his own flights of fancy adding that the Versailles of his imagination is a "kind of completely separate and unreal world."
Murakami has become famous over the past few years not just as an artist but as an artist who combines commerce and artistic ambition as well as high and low art. His collaborations with Louis Vuitton have included the popular rainbow colored Monogram Multicore line. In 2007, a Murakami exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles included a boutique that featured Louis Vuitton handbags and other pricey leather goods available for sale. He employs many people in studios around the world and is in many ways more empire than artist.
Like Koons, Murakami has created some pieces that are a bit controversial.In May 2008, his "My Lonesome Cowboy," a sculpture of a masturbating boy, sold for $15.2 million at a Sotheby's auction. The Versailles exhibit doesn't veer into this territory, keeping things mostly cute and perhaps a little weird, like "Pom & Me" below.
Murakami's art has achieved very high prices in recent years but he also has become one of the faces of the so-called "art slump" that followed the recession. The art market appears to be rebounding lately. His Miss ko2, 1997 heads to auction through Phillips de Pury on November 8 and is estimated to sell for between $4 and $6 million.