It is time for another entry in the series “Things That Tick Me Off” where I mindless vent my anger or frustration in a theraputic rage. The winner this time is Versailles and its director, Jean-Jacques Aillagon. I recently visited Versailles for the first time and was shocked to find that the director had placed the art of Takashi Murakami through the palace. I will not hide my general dislike of Murakami’s art which seems a mix of Disney and Pez art, but the placement of the large pieces entirely destroyed the historical context and experience for visitors at Versailles.
My friends in France tell me that the French have voiced their own contempt for the exhibition. What is unbelievable is that these large pieces were placed in every historic room — often blocking one’s ability to see parts of the room. It was also entirely impossible to experience these rooms as they existed in the eighteenth century because you are staring as a giant waitress carrying cokes or a giant orb with protruding teeth and flowers. In a couple cases, you could not clearly see the opposing wall of the chamber because you were staring at one of these oversized rabbits or fantasy creatures.
Indeed, when you try to look out a window to experience the view of the King or Queen, you look directly as a massive gold cartoonist orb with teeth placed directly in your view in the famous walkway to the gardens. It came across as virtual contempt for the historical value of the palace and totally ruined the visit to the site.
Petitions and protests have occurred over the display and frankly the director should be relieved of his office for this grotesque offense. He was given one of the world’s most recognizable historical sites and destroyed the ability of visitors to enjoy and understand the site.
Now I accept that Murakami is not my cup of tea and that others may like this type of art. However, I would oppose any extrinsic displays at the palace. Visitors come to Versailles to experience the architecture and art of the period. (Ironically, I found myself increasingly hostile toward the original occupants for their gross consumption and I could well understand why — upon entering this palace — people wanted to cut off their heads). The dispute is over the purpose of site. France is full of wonderful art museums. Versailles is a unique historical site that is full of contemporary art.
Ironically, when you arrive, the audio tour (which, by the way, should also be improved with greater detail and coverage) invites visitors to try to imagine living at the time of arie Antoinette. The visitors are then barraged with fantasy cartoon-like characters and images to prevent them from imaging anything but acts of spontaneous vigilantism in defense of the palace. Clearly, Aillagon wants to be the director of an art museum and is not satisfied with simply maintaining one of the world’s best known historical sites.
Jean-Jacques Aillagon is a former minister of culture who took over directorship and proceeded to degrade the palace with juvenile cartoonist displays.
Aillagon really ticks me off.