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Sculptor sparks uproar over 'queen's vagina' at Versailles

Published Jun 8, 2015, 3:48 pm IST
Updated Mar 28, 2019, 10:58 pm IST
He didn't say which queen he had in mind, but added that the work was 'ambitious'
British contemporary artist of Indian origin Anish Kapoor poses outside the Chateau de Versailles, in Versailles on June 5, 2015. (Photo: AFP)
 British contemporary artist of Indian origin Anish Kapoor poses outside the Chateau de Versailles, in Versailles on June 5, 2015. (Photo: AFP)

Paris: British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor has sparked an uproar in France by installing a huge work he reportedly described as a "queen's vagina" in the stately grounds of the Palace of Versailles.

The 60-metre (200-foot) long, 10-metre (33-foot) high steel-and-rock abstract sculpture is set up in the garden, which attracts five million tourists a year.


Mr Kapoor, 61, has titled the work "Dirty Corner". It is part of an exhibition of his work in the grounds of the 17th century palace that opens on Tuesday and runs until November.

The artist, who has long courted controversy, told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche a week ago that "Dirty Corner" was meant to be blatantly sexual, and regal.

It was, he said, "the vagina of a queen who is taking power".

He didn't say which queen he had in mind, but added that while the work was "ambitious", it was not as over-the-top as the scale of the opulent Versailles.


Inside the palace is a smaller work - a canon that fired red wax at white walls in a symbol of the phallus and ejaculation of blood.

Some French media outlets expressed unease at the level of provocation unleashed by Mr Kapoor.

"Anish Kapoor provokes a scandal," said the website of radio station Europe 1.

The conservative daily Le Figaro saw the work as an effort "to use Versailles as an object of contrast between two types of art": the contemporary style of Kapoor and the centuries-old elegance of the French court.

Others came running to the artist's defence. Les Inrocks, a youth pop culture magazine, said only a "fascist" circle of commentators was against the sculpture.


At a media conference on Friday, the artist seemed to step away from his description of the work on the lawns of Versailles as "the queen's vagina".

"I don't remember saying it," Kapoor told reporters, but admitted that he had used the word vaginas to describe parts of the exhibition.

In any case, he said, "I don't see why it's problematic", sexual organs being universal.

"The point is to create a dialogue between these great gardens and the sculptures," he said.

The French official in charge of Versailles, Catherine Pegard, said that what was of interest to Kapoor was "the hidden chaos" of the gardens designed by Andre Le Notre, the 17th century landscape architect who designed its strict lines.


The man in charge of the exhibition, Alfred Pacquement, said the gardens formed a contrasting background for Kapoor's work.

"The dark cavity is an ever-present theme in Kapoor's work," Pacquement said.

"He brings out contradiction with perspective, upending its (the garden's) order" while taking into account the large scale of Versailles.

Kapoor's exhibition is one of the most complex at Versailles since the authorities in 2008 opened the palace and its grounds to contemporary artists.

In 2008, Versailles hosted works by the American artist Jeff Koons, and in 2010 by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.