Jeff Koons Shows His Contemporary Culture in The Château de Versailles
The Château de Versailles will present the exhibition Jeff Koons at Versailles, which will be held from September 10th 2008, to December 14th, 2008 in the Royal Apartments and in the gardens of the Castle. This unique event will present seventeen Jeff Koons’ works, including his most significant works from the Eighties to these days. Paris is no stranger to rows over modern additions to historic spaces, from Marc Chagall’s fresco at the Opéra Garnier to the glass Pyramid at the Louvre, both now hailed as masterpieces.
The project focuses on the close relationship between each work and the space surrounding it. The works have been selected specifically for Les grands apartements at the piano nobile, composed by Les appartements du Roi (The King’s apartments) and Les appartements de la Reine (The Queen’s apartments), which formed a suite of several rooms “en enfi lade”. These large apartments are the most prestigious and important spaces of the Castle, since they were the official halls of the Sun King, composed as one of the richest expression of art and architecture.
The works presented in the exhibition have been selected in situ by Jeff Koons, highlighting an inner relationship between each artwork and the theme of the room, or the specific features of the work and the decorative details and the furnishings of the location, such as the original ancient furniture, the stucco elements and paintings on the walls and the ceilings. Koons’ works create a relation with these sumptuous royal apartments, extraordinary expression of the Baroque period and visual representation of the grandeur of the Roi Soleil. The artworks are the icons of the dialogue between Jeff Koons artistic research and the Baroque art, particularly admired by the artist.
Rabbit, one of Jeff Koons’ masterpieces, is located in Le salon de l’Abondance, the antechamber of the ancient cabinet des curiosités ou des raretés. The work is one of the most well-known and emblematic Koons’ creation. It has a glacial sensuality and lucidity, combined with symbolic levity and abstraction.
In the Queen’s apartments, Large Vase of Flowers is a colourful homage to the French Queen and to theme of maternity, since it will be presented in the room in which the “dolphins” – the princes designated to the crown – were born. The work also refers to Rococo, especially to Fragonard and Boucher.
Lobster is installed at Le salon de Mars, dedicated to the Greek god and, in the same time, to the planet. The colourful shape and design of the work derive from the inflatable children’s pool toys, but the material used by the artist – polychromatic aluminium – transforms this everyday objects into an unexpected works of art.
The exhibition will also include the gardens of the Castle, in which one important work Split Rocker, a sculpture created by ten of thousand flowers, will be installed in the Parterre de l’Orangerie. Flowers are a recurring elements throughout Koons’ work: they are a symbol of life and grace. The work combined two different profiles of rockers – a blue rocking horse and an animated dinosaur – and these split parts are sustained by an interior architectural structure.
But even before the show opens, controversy is raging. Rightwingers wrote to the culture minister, protesting that the “sacred” site of Versailles would be cheapened. Then the French media questioned whether the exhibition at a palace that symbolises the French revolution would benefit a billionaire French collector.
François Pinault, whose business empire includes Gucci and the Christie’s auction house, is one of the most influential private collectors in the modern art world. Alongside several other private collectors, he is a key patron of the Koons exhibition, lending six of the 17 works on show, including the giant outdoor flower sculpture Split Rocker.
As Paris struggles to shed its image as a fusty “museum city” and compete with London, Berlin and New York’s vibrant modern art scenes, there is a new trend for traditional museums to bring in controversial contemporary work. The Louvre now has a modern art curator and this year took the daring step of showing works by the Belgian artist Jan Fabre alongside masters such as Rubens. The Château de Fontainebleau is just following suit with Koons
Koons told Le Figaro he did not want “to be the agent provocateur”, but simply to “create an abstraction”.