Making Amends for Koons and Kapoor Shows, Versailles Will Reinvent Its Contemporary Art Program

Director Catherine Pégard turns her back on the solo art star.

After a decade of organizing solo shows by contemporary art stars such as Anish Kapoor and Jeff Koons—and receiving far more than its fair share of controversy—Chateau de Versailles director Catherine Pégard has announced a shift to a group show format, according to several reports.

Catherine Pégard, President, Palace of Versailles
Photo: © Thierry Bouët

This fall, timed to the end of the FIAC annual contemporary art fair, Chateau de Versailles will have a show featuring work by 10 artists (names have not yet been revealed and selections are reportedly still being made). Former Musee d’Art Moderne director Alfred Pacquement will curate the program, working closely with the Palais de Tokyo president Jean de Loisy to create an exhibition in the chateau’s gardens. (Neither institution responded to artnet News’ request for comment by publication time.)

According to reports, the change is at least in part a response to previous uproars such as protests of the 2008 show of Jeff Koons by French conservatives. At that time, one politician said Koons’s sculptures would “soil the most sacred of all symbols of our heritage and identity.” The heir of Louis XIV tried to sue, claiming his heritage had been soiled.

People look at the grafitti inscribed artwork by British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor entitled Dirty Corner in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles in Versailles on September 11, 2015, a day after the artwork was emblazoned with grafitti for a third time. Courtesy of Versailles Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images)

People look at the graffiti inscribed artwork by British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor entitled Dirty Corner in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles in Versailles on September 11, 2015, a day after the artwork was emblazoned with graffiti for a third time. Courtesy of Versailles Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images.

 

In 2015, Anish Kapoor’s Dirty Corner, a massive flared steel tube, was vandalized numerous times with anti-Semitic graffiti. It became the subject of intense debate after Kapoor publicly refused to remove the slurs.

That work had been controversial from the start, when Kapoor reportedly described it as a symbol of “the vagina of the queen who took power.” Though he backtracked shortly afterwards, it was apparently too late. The piece was dubbed “the queen’s vagina.” The first act of vandalism occurred just days afterward.

Jeff Koons exhibit at Palace of Versailles in 2008
Photo: © Manaã courtesy Palace of Versailles

Since it began in 2008, the artists who have had solo shows at Versailles include: Koons (2008); Xavier Veilhan (2009); Takashi Murakami (2010); Bernar Venet (2011); Joana Vasconcelos (2012); Giuseppe Penone (2013); Lee Ufan (2014); Kapoor (2015); and Olafur Eliasson (2016).

The Palace has also added permanent works of contemporary art to its holdings in recent years.

Pégard’s appointment itself, in 2011 by President Nicholas Sarkozy, drew skepticism and the ire of some very vocal critics. Many pointed to her longtime career as a political journalist and questioned her lack of cultural credentials.

in the ensuing years, Pégard has apparently proved herself—perhaps in part due to her application of skills as a seasoned journalist to the position. A recent report in the Australian Financial Review points out, “she would bring a notepad with her to meetings and take notes, adopting the role of inquisitive reporter rather than arts grandee.”

Last fall, her appointment was extended for another three years.


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