Public Outrage Erupts in France Over Anish Kapoor Vagina Sculpture at Versailles

The artist hastily assured the BBC that the work has multiple interpretations.

Anish Kapoor Ditry Corner (2011). Courtesy of Anish Kapoor.

Paris might be the world’s most romantic city, but when it comes to talking about sex, Parisians are proving a little prudish.

One of Anish Kapoor’s sculptures at his newly-opened solo show at Versailles is causing a stir for its anatomical implications (see See Anish Kapoor’s Gruesome, Chaotic, and Mesmerizing Sculptures at Versailles).

Dirty Corner, a 60-meter steel tube flared like a French horn with its opening facing the palace, allows visitors entering the gardens a view into its dark, cavernous interior.

The imagery is in line with Kapoor’s oeuvre, in which he often employs gaping chasms and black holes (see Anish Kapoor Adds New “Super Black” to His Palette).

Dirty Corner was first fabricated in 2011 and installed at Milan’s Fabbrica del Vapore.

The view of the Versailles gardens from the Palace, <i>DIrty Corner</i> taking center stage. <br>Photo: via <i>the Telegraph</i></br>

The view of the Versailles gardens from the Palace, Dirty Corner taking center stage.
Photo: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via the Telegraph

Kapoor acknowledged the sexual connotations of the sculpture’s current version in an interview with the JDD, referring to it obliquely as a symbol of “the vagina of the queen who took power.”

But later, quoted by the BBC, he covered his tracks, reminding everyone that, like all art, his “work has multiple interpretive possibilities.”

However, Kapoor’s defending of the piece might have come too late. François de Maziéres, mayor of Versailles, tweeted on June 3, “#versailles, Anish Kapoor dérape sur le tapis vert” (“#versailles, Anish Kapoor skids on the green carpet”), referring to the “green carpet” of the gardens.

France might have a history of explicitly erotic art, but this isn’t the first time in recent memory that contemporary iterations of sexual themes have made Parisians blush (see Artist Enacts Origin of the World at Musée d’Orsay – And, Yes, That Means What You Think).

Detail of <i>Dirty Corner</i> <br>Photo: Stephane de Sakutin via AFP</br>

Detail of Dirty Corner
Photo: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via the Telegraph

Art dealing with private parts, abstractly or figuratively, has mixed reactions around the world, from arrests (see Chinese Artist Arrested for Joke Images of President Xi Jinping) to popular spectacles (see Sex Sells As NADA New York Becomes the World’s Most Erotic Art Fair and Judith Bernstein Aims to Satisfy Your Curiosity About the Vagina).

Kapoor has said he aims to unearth the hidden chaos within the strictly-designed gardens of Versailles. In light of the controversies that have erupted with nearly every contemporary installation on the grounds (Koons’s in 2008 and Murakami’s in 2010 both also stirred outrage), it seems chaos is just what happens when you mess with a 17th-century symbol of absolute power.

Luckily, Kapoor’s sculpture isn’t going to be easy to remove, and is unlikely to face the same fate as Paul McCarthy’s Butt Plug (see Paul McCarthy Beaten Up over Butt Plug Sculpture, and Vandalized Paul McCarthy Butt Plug Pulled from Paris Square).

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