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Murakami angers traditionalists in France with Versailles installation

September 1, 2010 | 10:34 am

Murakami

Angry mobs once ran Marie Antoinette and her family out of Versailles. Will they do the same to Japanese artist Takashi Murakami?

Cultural traditionalists in France are upset that the famed chateau will play host to an installation of Murakami's work, scheduled to run from September through December. Known for his brightly colored pop creations that pull from the worlds of anime, manga and cartoons, Murakami is a decidedly odd fit for the Baroque castle where French royalty resided during the 17th and 18th centuries.

KoonsA group called the Coordination Défense de Versailles has launched a petition that decries the decision to honor Murakami at the palace. The petition has so far gathered approximately 5,000 signatures. The group was behind a similar protest against an installation of Jeff Koons' artwork at Versailles in 2008.

Another petition site, Versailles Mon Amour, criticizes the Murakami event for its commercial angle and quotes the artist as saying that he wouldn't be able to show his work in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The Murakami exhibition is being organized by Jean-Jacques Aillagon, the director of Versailles, who has told reporters that the attacks are coming from the far-right and conservative circles.

In 2007, the Murakami exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles was a major blockbuster show that proved a top draw for the institution. However, organizers also received criticism from the art world for including a Louis Vuitton boutique shop as part of the show. (Murakami is a frequent collaborator with the fashion label.) The exhibition later moved to the Brooklyn Museum.

The Versailles show of Murakami's work is part of an ongoing series that is intended to shake up the image of the tourist site and to draw new visitors. In addition to Murakami and Koons, the series has featured the work of French pop artist Xavier Veilhan.

-- David Ng

Upper photo: Takashi Murakami. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Lower photo: Jeff Koons' "Balloon Flower" at Versailles in 2008. Credit: Associated Press

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