June 18, 2012 / 3:33 PM / 5 years ago

Steel stilettos take over Versailles Hall of Mirrors

PARIS (Reuters) - Visitors to France’s Palace of Versailles on Monday were greeted by the unusual sight of a giant pair of stainless steel stilettos as they walked into the celebrated Hall of Mirrors.

The installation was put together using saucepans of different sizes by Portuguese sculptor Joana Vasconcelos who became the latest in a series of contemporary artists to have their works exhibited at the chateau.

Over a dozen sculptures, many composed of everyday objects, were on display in the grand staterooms and grounds of the palace, once home to the kings and queens of France.

Vasconcelos said that in putting together the exhibition she tried both to challenge and to work with the grandeur of the surroundings.

“My goal was to be part of it naturally. To use contemporary speech, contemporary textiles and materials of today, but at the same time incorporate the surroundings,” she said.

A hot pink helicopter made of ostrich feathers and Swarovski crystals was on display in a room dedicated to King Louis-Philippe, whilst a work sculpted using wood, brass and wigs sat in the corner of Marie Antoinette’s elegant bedchamber.

Vasconcelos believed that France’s doomed Queen had an eye for luxury and creativity and so she would have appreciated the works now exhibited in her home. But she said this exhibition was not just for Marie Antoinette, but for all of the women who once lived and worked in the palace.

An artist whose works often consider women and contemporary femininity, Vasconcelos used household objects and fabrics to create large works which dominated the already overbearing surroundings.

In the vast Battle Gallery, home to paintings depicting French military victories, hung three textile installations, the soft edges appearing to challenge the images of guns and spears which surrounded them.

Vasconcelos said she believed there is a place for such modern works even in this historic setting.

“As an artist, I felt we needed to bring more contemporary art here to show that Versailles is alive, and that it is a place which can talk about contemporary issues, not just past ones. That works can exist here and that people can to a certain extent still belong to Versailles today,” she said.

The palace’s gardens too were home to her creations with a teapot and a pair of blue glass towers installed in the perfectly manicured surroundings.

At the age of 41, Vasconcelos became the youngest contemporary artist and the first woman to have her work on display at Versailles, following in the footsteps of Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Xavier Veilhan and Bernar Venet.

The exhibition runs until the end of September.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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