Vandalized Paul McCarthy Butt Plug Pulled from Paris Square

After a beating and a bout of vandalism, the artist said enough was enough.

Paul McCarthy's Tree (2014) being packed away on Saturday
Via: @FigaroVox on Twitter

Vandals attacked Paul McCarthy‘s now-legendary installation Tree (2014) on Paris’s Place Vendôme on Friday night. According to numerous reports, the unidentified saboteurs cut the cords that kept McCarthy’s sculpture standing upright, causing it to be deflated. Since it was erected last Thursday, many have noted that it more closely represents a butt plug sex toy (a favorite motif of the artist’s) than it does a Christmas tree.

Police told Reuters that “An unidentified group of people cut the cables which were holding the artwork, which caused it to collapse. The person responsible for the piece then decided to deflate it to avoid it being more seriously damaged.”

The attack comes after the 69-year-old artist was hit in the head multiple times by an enraged Frenchman on Thursday after completing the installation of the piece (see “Paul McCarthy Beaten Up over Butt Plug Sculpture“). Tree (2014) was created for art fair FIAC’s “Hors Les Murs” public art program installed throughout the city. FIAC opens this Wednesday at the Grand Palais.

FIAC initially released a statement saying that the sculpture would be reinstalled as soon as possible. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo also took to Twitter on Saturday, suggesting that the piece would remain on the Place Vendôme and that the city would not bow to threats against artistic freedom.

Paul McCarthy, Tree (2014) Via: @HauserWirth on Twitter

Paul McCarthy, Tree (2014) previous to Friday’s vandalism
Via: @HauserWirth on Twitter

However, McCarthy was apparently less stalwart in his commitment to maintain the sculpture. According to L’Express, the artist has since decided against reinstalling the sculpture. His decision was announced by FIAC in a subsequent statement.

“Instead of the piece being about a discussion about how objects exist as language with layers of meaning, a violent reaction occurred,” McCarthy said in a statement provided to artnet News. “I am not interested in the possibility of such confrontation and physical violence, or continuing to put those around the object at risk.”

FIAC confirmed that the decision to remove McCarthy’s contribution from “Hors Les Murs” will not effect the rest of the program, which features works by Georg Baselitz, Christian Boltanski, Manfred Pernice, and Rebecca Warren.

Paul McCarthy‘s own exhibition, “Chocolate Factory,” at the Monnaie de Paris will also open as scheduled this coming Saturday.

Tree isn’t McCarthy’s first public art work to draw ire this year. In April, the artist and the Guggenheim Bilbao fought it out over a 2,000 square foot mural he created with Mike Bouchet as part of an exhibition at Frankfurt’s Portikus (see “Guggenheim Bilbao Censors “Offensive” Paul McCarthy and Mike Bouchet Public Artwork“). The mural altered an image of the Frank Gehry-designed museum such that it resembled a battleship. The Guggenheim threatened building owners with copyright infringement for using the image, prompting the mural to be deinstalled.


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