Murakami at Versailles

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“Murakami Versailles” opens today at the 17th-century French palace, and surprise, surprise: some French are offended. It’s probably the same stuffed shirts that reacted to Jeff Koons 2008 installation, and I’m willing to bet that this time around their petitions will have about the same impact, which is to say none at all.

A very select group of artists have been invited to place their work at Versailles, and for the honor Takashi Murakami made 11 site-specific sculptures in addition to his 11 other works on display. He calls it “My Versailles, manga style,” and true to his word the 22 sculptures are as bright and bubbly as ever. The site specific pieces are easy to spot, shiny gold homages to Louis XIV’s decadence. The gold does a lot to help Murakami’s work feel more at home in the palace, whereas some of the other works look like cheap anime action figures that the art world has embraced to the point of slavish adoration – remember his quick-to-sell collaboration with Pharrell Williams at last year’s Art Basel. So what does Murakami have to say about his experience at Versailles? “I am the Cheshire cat that welcomes Alice in Wonderland with its diabolic smile, and chatters away as she wanders around the Château.” We don’t know what he means either.