Jeff Koons before Versailles

Jeff Koons Balloon Flower

Jeff Koons Balloon Flower

The exhibition opens today! And whoever dreamed up this concept had a certain flair for provocation. The French and international press is abuzz with talk of the controversy.

I, for one, am no fan of Jeff Koons‘s Made in Heaven series, featuring the artist involved in various sexual activities with his then wife, former porn actress turned politician La Cicciolina. Likewise I find Mr. Koons’s puppies-and-flowers resin sculptures sickeningly sweet. They make Disney look downright austere.

Yet lately I have discovered his balloon sculptures, like this blue Flower, and have to grant him a great deal of virtuosity in the treatment of polished metal. In any case, art collectors have issued their verdict: his work sells for millions of dollars.

Jeff Koons Puppy

Jeff Koons Puppy

It has met with success with the public as well. His giant Puppy live-plant sculpture in front of the Guggenheim in Bilbao endeared itself to the locals. My nursery in Woodland Hills, California, carries a line of similar, though more modest in scale, animal-themed wire structures.

But the Guggenheim is a modern building, dedicated to modern art, and Los Angeles gardens are less formal than those of the Sun King. Yet a similar wire-and-live-plant structure, titled Split Rocker, representing a rocking horse, will be displayed in the Orangerie Garden. How does this fit in Versailles?

Most of the works will be displayed inside the palace, in the Grands Appartments of the King and Queen, and the Hall of Mirrors. Jeff Koons, in an interview published (in French) by Le Figaro, explains that he did not visit Versailles before deciding on the placement of the sculptures within the rooms. He relied entirely on photographs and computer simulations.

Mr. Koons, who expresses admiration for Louis XIV’s artistic vision, also announces that his giant metal Lobster will hang from the ceiling of the Salon de Mars, temporarily replacing one of the chandeliers. This should be interesting, with the bright orange of the sculpture against the raspberry red backdrop of the room.

I was in any event planning a visit to Versailles one of these days, and will report on my impressions.

Palace of Versailles, until December 14, 2008.

Versailles Salon de Mars

Versailles Salon de Mars

Picture credits:
Ballon Flower by Markus
Puppy by Criesca

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