Things That Tick Me Off: Versailles II

Recently I added Versailles (and more specifically its director, Jean-Jacques Aillagon) to our ignoble list of “Things That Tick Me Off.” Now, Aillagon has succeeded in securing a second appearance on this list with the news that he had decided to convert part of Versailles into a hotel. That’s right. To raise money for his plans for the historical site, Aillagon is moving into the hotel business. This is after his widely condemned effort to become an art museum with the obnoxious placement of works by Takashi Murakami throughout the palace.

I was shocked in my recent visit to find these large pieces placed in every historic room — often blocking one’s ability to see parts of the room. Petitions and protests followed over the destruction of the entire experience for visitors at the palace.

Jean-Jacques Aillagon is a former minister of culture who took over directorship and proceeded to degrade the palace with juvenile cartoonist displays.

Ironically, as the Murakami works are finally being taken down, Aillagon has announced his next outrage by turning over parts of the palace to a Belgian company to run as a luxury hotel.

The plan will be to convert the part of the Palace known as Hotel du Grand Controle into a 23-bedroom hotel scheduled to open in late 2011.

Aillagon says that the plan will produce funds to renovate the building. Of course, it will be renovated as a hotel. But Aillagon calls it another one of his “pioneering initiative[s].”

It is a disgrace for France to turn over such an iconic site to a private company for commercial development. Now, Belgian company Ivy International SA will renovate the 1,700 square-metre Hotel du Grand Controle. This building was constructed in the 1680s by architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. They will have the run of the building for three decades under the deal.

Aillagon is fast becoming the single greatest threat to French heritage since the blitzkrieg.

On one other note, I would like to add that the audio tour also ticks me off. I previously noted that the tour lacked substantive information on the art and history (clearly intended to move people along) but the portion on the painting depicting Yorktown is a bit too much for Americans. The painting shows Comte de Rochambeau directing operations at Yorktown and the audiotape states that Rochambeau commanded the operations that led to the great victory over the British. The audiotapes describes how Rochambeau directed the placement of troops as commanding officer. Rochambeau was clearly the commander of the French forces, but the painting and the tour overstates his command of all ground operations around Yorktown.

I will note, however, that Washington should also not be given personal credit for the victory. Historian John Ferling discusses this issue in the January issue of Smithsonian magazine in an article entitled “Myths of the American Revolution.” He notes that it was Rochambeau who saw the value of the Virginia campaign and Yorktown. Washington was not a great strategist and failed to see the potential for the entire Southern campaign that crippled the British. Having said that, the audio tour could be dialed down a bit.

Perhaps Disney can look into that issue when Aillagon hands over the rest of French history to private companies.

Aillagon really ticks me off . . . again.

Source: France 24

Jonathan Turley

19 thoughts on “Things That Tick Me Off: Versailles II”

  1. Blouise,

    Of course we care, welcome back and “two thumbs up…”, regarding the other stuff, completely unrelated to Versailles. Such good news.

    You were missed around here — it wasn’t the same without you.

  2. Not that anyone should care, but after reading all the posts, I find tomdarch’s the most persuasive from a professional and aesthetic point of view.

  3. tomdarch
    1, December 16, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    “I say, don’t mess up the gardens, but I’m fine with modifications to limited parts of the palace (e.g. don’t touch the chapels or the “hall of mirrors”)”


    Ditto to that.

    I was fortunate to visit the palace in the late 1970s on a nearly perfect summer day. For whatever reason, it was virually empty, with very few visitors. As I recall, with the exceptions of the chapels and the “hall of mirrors”(as tomdarch noted), I found the palace a bit garish and chose to spend most of my time in the gardens, which were quite lovely. Having read our host’s accounts of the changes, it sounds Felliniesque…

  4. Gyges,

    I understand the Palace already has a large selection of topiary animals just rarin’ to go. 🙂

  5. Hey Tootie, Yes, you Tootie – ‘no one put a gun to their heads and made them go down there’; our resident compassionate christian.

    This is for you. It’s the video of Jon Stewart’s interview with some of the first responders needing medical care and compensation. It’s not a good one, a screen grab with editing. There’s a better one up at Comedy Central/Jon Stewart but having one embedded here makes it convenient for you.

    Keep your eye on the guy on the right, he’s in stage four of throat cancer- dead man walking -and starting at about 3:15 minutes in they explain why your argument that they’re (well) taken care of because they have other avenues of compensation is bullshit. Obviously you’ve never dealt with the workman’s compensation division of the department of labor. I have many times as an advocate, it ain’t no picnic.


  6. Buddha,

    Jack Nicholson, Olive oyl, and their kid could live there as the winter caretakers, only to discover that the hotel has been the location of so many violent acts that it’s become a malevolent entity, and Jack could slip further and further into madness as his psychic son starts to have more and more disturbing visions?

  7. Bof…

    I was lucky enough to be a student at the School of Architecture housed in one of the stable buildings at Versailles for a year with the University of Illinois program. The palace is nice, but it isn’t really all that special. Similar palaces were built around that time period that are arguably better designed and executed (though perhaps not as excessively opulent), largely because they weren’t done at such an absurd scale. I say, don’t mess up the gardens, but I’m fine with modifications to limited parts of the palace (e.g. don’t touch the chapels or the “hall of mirrors”)

    The palace and gardens at Versailles USED to be a place where important events took place, but today, it’s fairly moribund. Without the excess of the monarchy, there wouldn’t have been the revolution, so it’s valuable to see the absurd scale and opulence, the site of excessive gambling and abuse of child “prostitutes.”

    In terms of architectural influence, the palace at Versailles inspired other monarchs’ palaces, but didn’t really have much other significance, outside of Las Vegas, perhaps. The chateaux of the Loire and the English castles in Wales and Scotland have probably influenced more buildings around the world over the last two centuries. In contrast, the gardens of the palace have influenced countless garden and park designs around the world, and are important for any architect or landscape designer to study.

    Come to think of it, wildly overpriced hotel rooms, to be occupied by the robber barons of our current gilded age would be an absolutely appropriate use for the palace.

    Also, the photo with this article isn’t part of the palace, it’s the hotel de ville – the town hall, which is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from the palace.

  8. I don’t know what I’m most delighted with. That the current socialist government of France is unable to maintain the great projects of a hated monarchical government, or that the great, great, great, grandchildren of the enlightenment are getting a dose of the iconoclasm their predecessors shamelessly indulged in when they destroyed that civilization long ago(the French Revolution).

    Either way it is hilarious to see people here who are devoted to iconoclasm and the destruction of western values in America wring their hands over the consequences of iconoclasm by their fellow levelers in France. What is happening in France will happen here if our Marxist president Obama and his Marxist pals in the Democratic Party have their way. Let’s turn Harvard into a flop house.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a Saudi Prince bought the palace and made a Harem out of it. That’s multiculturalism for ya and guess who promotes that!?!

    One should not be surprised about the unwillingness or inability to fund and maintain the institutions when they have worked overtime to destroy so many of the values (western civilization) that led to great things worth preserving. In other words, don’t be surprised when you succeed in destroying your own civilization. You might have to put it to a garage sale if you’re not careful.

    That this great edifice will be “cheapened” by the “capitalists” is the Royals’ revenge against the godless rationalists who murdered the King and the ancient regime.

    The King of France stands up (in his grave, of course) to the atheist nihilists who overthrew him and declares: off their their heads! Then he laughs: “do you take American Express”?


  9. Kristin:

    “This guy has just single-handedly ruined Versailles for every generation to follow.”


    Come on, now. That’s a bit strong. Personally, I think form follows function and it sure looks like a hotel to me.

  10. Well, maybe it does begin to describe it, but it certainly doesn’t finish describing it! lol

  11. A hotel.

    What could possibly go wrong with that scenario?

    Aside from everything.

  12. As an historian, this is the kind of thing that makes my blood boil. The whole idea behind historic preservation is to make historical places accessible to everyone, present and future. This guy has just single-handedly ruined Versailles for every generation to follow.

  13. Oh, JT you’re such a traditionalist. Why not a spot for garishly clad Americans to drag all manner of inflatables to the Great Pool of Apollo!

  14. “Aillagon is fast becoming the single greatest threat to French heritage since the blitzkrieg.”

    He really, REALLY ticks you off!

    Thank you for that LOL moment on this cold, icy morning, I needed it.

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