Jeff Koons: An American in Versailles

Would Louis XIV find it amusing to see Jeff Koons’ hanging “Lobster,” otherwise known as inflatable beach toy, suspended in of one of his salons? Maybe. He was, after all, a revered sponsor of the arts. Appropriate? Jean-Jacques Aillagon, President of the Château de Versailles, which hosts the American artist’s selected works, seems to think so. “Koons’ “Pop Baroque” aesthetic is in line with the palace’s Baroque style,” Aillagon has said. His support for the project was so deep that Aillagon committed an unprecedented 2 million euros for the event.

Seems little of that money went towards the actual presentation of Koons’ debatable masterpieces. Weighing a ton plus, the “Balloon Dog (Magenta),” rests on a stained, magenta-carpeted platform. “Michael Jackson and Bubbles,” one of world’s largest porcelain works, is enclosed in a scratched-up, tempered glass box, while unmarked “Large Vase of Flowers” stands to one side of Marie-Antoinette’s bed — where to an uneducated eye, the sculpture passes as a dust-collecting, plastic bouquet. Fortunately for “Split-Rocker” (half dinosaur, half pony made of thousands of living petunias and geraniums), the parterre of the Orangery serves as a fine canvas, as does the alcove of the Queen’s Staircase for the romantic “Hanging Heart (Red/Gold).”

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Presentation aside, many Parisians are smitten with the exhibit. “It’s ridiculous but in a good way,” Marie Olofsson concluded. “For me the juxtaposition of new and old works. But then art works just about everywhere,” said Kareen de Beaurapaire. Surprisingly, her 12-year-old son, Charles, represented a more conservative viewpoint. “There is no place for balloons in a palace that represents French history,” he concluded.

And once Koons’ dogs go home, who should the next court jester be? There’s talk that Takashi Murakami is considering the role.

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