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Murakami Versailles

Japanese pop art takes up residence in France's most famous gilded halls

by Karen Day in Culture on 13 September 2010

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While Versaille's latest contemporary art installation doesn't officially open until tomorrow, controversy over the show has already been brewing for months. Like when Jeff Koons' 2008 retrospective was shown at the baroque château, some see Takashi Murakami's whirlwind of manga-inspired works as out of place at the historic site.

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On a recent visit to the palace, we found that this sense of displacement makes the installation all the more intriguing—with colorfully-whimsical creatures inhabiting ornately decorated rooms like the Hall of Mirrors to gold Buddha-like sculptures aptly placed in the center of stately rooms comprising King Louis XIV's Grand Apartment and the gardens outside.

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The 22 works on display—including 11 site-specific pieces—aim to project a story within a story. As curator Laurent Le Bon states, "This unique experience seeks above all to spark a reflection on the contemporary nature of our monuments and the indispensable need to create our own era." Tying the past to the future, Murakami seemingly experiments with this idea by creating sculptures that serve as prospective statues as well as some that simply acknowledge historical figures, such as his endearing King Louis XIV.

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A carefully considered exhibition, "Murakami Versailles" indisputably adds provocative excitement and a fresh perspective. While many claim it detracts from the overall Château de Versailles experience, the ironic undertone is that in 500 years time it's highly possible as many people will travel from around the world to see Murakami's celebrated works as the current population does to the beautiful palace.

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"Murakami Versailles" runs from 14 September to 12 December 2010 and is included in the standard museum entrance fee.

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