"Profound" was the word Jeff Koons used most frequently to express his feelings about his Versailles show at the opening day press conference. After viewing the 17 sculptures installed in the castle's rooms and courtyards, we have to agree.
While it's not a word often associated with Pop Art and may read as a self-aggrandizing statement (especially coming from an artist known for his lack of elitism and an impressively consistent message of lighthearted optimism), the exhibit feels "right," as Koons also put it — both for the sheer aesthetic beauty of his works in the lavish context, as wells as for the overall meaning lent by the historical significance of the site.
As an example of the French government's support of culture, the event carries some weight too. In fact, the French Minister of Culture, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, defended Koons against right-wing protesters who were there calling for purity in art.
Some pieces, such as "Large Vase of Flowers" (above left) in the queen's bedroom, blended almost seamlessly with the decor of the rooms, an effect no doubt having something to do with the influence of Koons' father who was a decorator and who Koons cited as a reason for his appreciation of Versaille's decorative arts, fabrics and textures. The oversize scale of the flowers however, makes it a bit off and, like the other works in the show, sets up a paradox. On one hand the contrast between materials, shapes, scale and surfaces with all the gilt and flourishes is striking, while on the other, Koons' own sense of opulence and the pairing of specific rooms with specific works is resonant.
For some great images and a few insights into the placement of the sculptures, check out the NYT slideshow (where we found the lead image above that features a couple members you may recognize from team CH).
Jeff Koons Versailles
Through 14 December 2008
Château de Versailles
tel. +33 0 1 30 83 78 00