This past weekend I was invited by one of my friends and fellow au-pairs, Trisha, to accompany her and her French host family to Versailles. I have been absolutely dying to get out there, but it’s in the outskirts of Paris so you really have to plan ahead and have a full day dedicated to the castle and all of it’s wonders! My friend lives in Garche, a town really close to Versailles, so it was much more convenient. Fortunately, for me I got the opportunity of going on the weekend the Murakami exhibit opened. It was like killing two birds with one stone!
Murakami is a contemporary Japanese artist, and he is becoming increasingly more and more prominent in today’s art scene. (He designed Kanye West’s “Graduation” album if that gives you any reference…) His pieces at Versailles were basically giant plastic anime sculptures…exactly what you would picture in the world’s oldest, most beautiful, ornate and well-preserved castle, right? I’m pretty sure a lot of people will probably think that this exhibit is degrading to the castle, and I myself am not a big fan of anime in general, but in my opinion, the exhibit itself was just sweet.
Obvious to the naked eye was the contrast between the old and the new. There is no denying the awesomeness/uniqueness of a bright pink, plastic anime “pokemon” creature on a ball of smiling flowers juxtaposed with the gilded doors, marble floors and frescoed ceilings of Versailles.
But beyond this obvious contrast, I also noticed that the sculptures and the castle definitely have something in common as well. Many of Murakami’s pieces are surely meant to be a commentary on today’s consumer culture. In particular one sculpture of a monster’s head (which is reminiscent of a tanning bed) has various consumer goods in it’s mouth; a ketchup bottle, pepsi can, cup cake etc. I found it ironic that Versailles was the chosen venue for these sculptures; everyone knows it is the best example out there of extreme and excessive consumerism during the 15th century (Marie Antoinette lived there…that says it all.) I couldn’t help but think that maybe this particular exhibition was not so random and unfitting for Versailles after all.