French Protest Koons Show at Versailles


Published: September 9, 2008

PARIS—Controversy has been swirling in France around Jeff Koons's show at Versailles, set to open tomorrow, the Guardian reports. The exhibition will mark the first time that a modern artist has shown at the historic château, and the French are not entirely happy about it.

A number of conservatives have written in to the culture minister, protesting that the "sacred" site of Versailles will be violated by Koons's giant rabbits and balloon dogs. The French media also questioned whether the exhibition is being staged for the benefit of François Pinault, a billionaire French collector.

Pinault is a key patron of the Koons show, having lent six of the 17 works on display. French newspaper Le Monde wrote that the situation presents a "possible conflict of interest," because the exhibition — Koons's first in France — will increase the value of the artist's works. The paper also pointed out that the chairman of Versailles, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, used to head Pinault's private art foundation in Venice.

In response to the allegations, Aillagon told the Guardian: "Has this exhibition been programmed to provoke a rise of Jeff Koons's works on the market? Of course not. This exhibition is a cultural act to make a great artist known and to show off the value of our heritage. Has this exhibition been put on to enrich myself? I firmly refute that. This exhibition was a culture decision alone."

Koons himself told French paper Le Figaro that he did not want to "be the agent provocateur" but rather to "create an abstraction."

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