Murakami art show tests viewing public at Versailles

Thu Sep 9, 2010 1:30pm EDT
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By Nick Vinocur and Lucien Libert

VERSAILLES, France (Reuters Life!) - Wild, otherworldly creations from the mind of Japan's foremost pop artist took over the Versailles palace this week, to the fury of royalists bent on keeping the site pure of modern influences.

The exhibition by Takashi Murakami brings gleaming cartoon behemoths from the world of Japanese "otaku" culture into the muted grandeur of the Ancien Regime palace, throwing 17th century French aesthetics against hypermodern Japan.

Weeks before the opening, the prospect of manga-inspired fibreglass sculptures invading the former residence of Louis XIV prompted protests by a faction of royalist activists, who picketed outside the palace gates.

In an online petition titled "Versailles, Mon Amour," they accused palace curators of selling out to "financial art" and perverting the historical nature of the Versailles palace, last inhabited by Louis XVI.

Yet the noise did not discourage Murakami, a classically trained painter turned art world superstar, who put on a typically extravagant show featuring all but his most provocative works, which were left out as a concession.

Absent from the exhibition, which runs from September 14 to mid-December, are risque works like "My Lonesome Cowboy" and "Hiropon" which had worried critics with their graphic yet playful cartoon depictions of anatomy.

The artist said criticism of his work was nothing new, having already given rise to the phenomenon of "Murakami bashing" on the Web.

"These criticisms, I have also heard them on the Web," he told a news conference, speaking through an interpreter. "On the Web, there was even 'Murakami bashing' ... but all of this, in my opinion, comes from a misunderstanding."   Continued...

<p>The sculpture "Flower Matango" by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami is displayed at the Chateau de Versailles (Versailles Palace), outside Paris, September 9, 2010. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>