British-Indian sculptor in soup over 'queen's vagina' in Versailles

  • AFP, Paris
  • Updated: Jun 08, 2015 19:56 IST

British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor landed in controversy in France after he installed a huge work he called a "queen's vagina" in the stately grounds of the Palace of Versailles.

The 60-metre (200-foot) long, 10-metre (33-foot) high steel-and-rock abstract sculpture, resembling a funnel in the form of an orifice, was set up in the garden aimed directly at the royal chateau, attracting about five million tourists a year.

Kapoor, 61, has titled the work Dirty Corner, which was part of an exhibition of his work in the grounds of the 17th century palace that opened on Tuesday and would run until November.

The artist told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche a week ago that Dirty Corner was meant to be blatantly sexual -- and regal.

It was, he said, "the vagina of a queen who is taking power".

He didn't say which queen he had in mind, but added that while the work was "ambitious", it was not so over-the-top as the scale of the opulent Versailles.

Strong controversy

Inside the palace itself is a smaller work -- a canon that fired red wax at white walls in a symbol of phallus and ejaculation of blood.

Some French media outlets expressed unease at the level of provocation unleashed by Kapoor.

"Anish Kapoor provokes a scandal," said the website of radio station Europe 1.

The conservative daily Le Figaro saw the work as an effort "to use Versailles as an object of contrast between two types of art": the contemporary style of Kapoor and the centuries-old elegance of the French court.

Others came running to the artist's defence. Les Inrocks, a youth pop culture magazine, said only a "fascist" circle of commentators was against the sculpture.

Not problematic, says artist

At a media conference on June 5, the artist stepped away from his description of the work on the lawns of Versailles as "the queen's vagina".

Artist Anish Kapoor says it is not problematic since sexual organs are universal (AP Photo)

"I don't remember saying it," Kapoor told reporters, but admitted that he had used the word vaginas to describe parts of the exhibition.

In any case, he said, "I don't see why it's problematic", sexual organs being universal.

"The point is to create a dialogue between these great gardens and the sculptures," he said.

The French official in charge of Versailles, Catherine Pegard, said that what was of interest to Kapoor was "the hidden chaos" of the
gardens designed by Andre Le Notre, the 17th century landscape architect who designed its strict lines.

The man in charge of the exhibition, Alfred Pacquement, said the gardens formed a contrasting background for Kapoor's work.

"The dark cavity is an ever-present theme in Kapoor's work," Pacquement said.

"He brings out contradiction with perspective, upending its (the garden's) order" while taking into account the large scale of Versailles.

Kapoor's exhibition is one of the most complex 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.

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