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