Koons is not the real issue at Versailles

Some of our readers would like The Art Tribune to take a stand on the Jeff Koons exhibition at Versailles. Let us say that our views [1] were clearly expressed — in humorous form — in our review of the press conference given by Jean-Jacques Aillagon last 11 December. The inclusion of contemporary art in historical monuments and classical art museums is a passing trend, and as such will tend to disappear. Its only real justification is in the case of a thematic or cross-referenced exhibition as there really is no need to chop up our reflection on art. As long as this phenomenon remains temporary (or permanent, but in a relatively discreet and successful way as for Anselm Kiefer at the Louvre), a debate is not called for, even if visitors coming to Versailles only once in their lives do not really feel like seeing Jeff Koons there. Indeed, the real issue at Versailles is not Koons, who will have vanished in three months. As Laurent Le Bon, curator of the exhibition, said : “If there is one place where risks should be taken in creating manifestations of our times and not a glib pastiche, often a tempting choice, it’s here at Versailles.” Although we would beg to differ with the first part of this alternative, we firmly approve the second. Versailles today is not threatened by contemporary art but by pastiches (notably the “royal” grille) which are literally invading the château, outside as well inside, in a steady manner [2].

To set the record straight, there seems to be a current of intellectual terrorism dominating the French artistic scene which is extremely exasperating. Claiming that a small group of extreme rightist writers with ties to traditionalist circles have opposed the Jeff Koons exhibition by invoking such ridiculous arguments as “Louis XV’s moral rights”, but more likely still due to their ingrained hate of contemporary art, anyone who thinks that Jeff Koons does not belong at Versailles, nor Jan Fabre at the Louvre, is by extension also an extreme-rightist reactionary who is systematically hostile to the art of our times. This argument, be it overt or implied, is despicable and just as dismaying as the one claiming that Versailles has opened its doors to a “sacrilegious exhibition”.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 10 septembre 2008


[1] Let us remind our readers that the views expressed in the articles published on this site are those of the authors alone.

[2] See particularly our article (in French) Versailles or Versailles-land ; see also Grille en stuc pour un Versailles en toc by Bernard Hasquenoph.

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