a landscape lover's blog

garden tales from a Brit at home and abroad

The Cheshire Cat at Versailles

From tomorrow, the chateau of Versailles is hosting an exhibition by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. He describes himself as like the Cheshire Cat, guiding the visitor through the wonderland of Versailles with a cheerful smile and a devilish twinkle in his eye. The juxtaposition between the baroque extravagance of Louis XIV’s palace and the bright plastic and metal Manga-inspired sculptures is indeed eye-popping, and has led to strong objections from some of the cultural elite. But for me it works – more so than the much-criticised Jeff Koons show at Versailles eighteen months ago. Somehow the clash of these two ages, these two cultures, makes us look at both with more care.

Among my favourite moments are the deprecating self-portrait Pom and Me nestled next to the fine bust of the young Sun King; the Japanese waitress, Miss Ko2, tottering on the edge between sexy and grotesque, beckoning us into the obscene extravagance of the Hall of Mirrors.

For more of a garden theme, there are the tendrils of the crazy plastic globe Flower Matango curling up almost to touch a pair of gilded cherubs half-hidden on a ceiling, as well as a vast, snarling Oval Buddha presiding over the Le Nôtre gardens, its colour echoing the dazzlingly bright gilded gates at the front of the chateau.

The Murakami exhibition will be at Versailles until 12th December.


2 comments on “The Cheshire Cat at Versailles

  1. Jac
    September 21, 2012

    A little late to comment, never having explored your rather wonderful blog before, other than the Elie references!
    Do you remember visiting in about 1980/1 when we couldn’t work out what the back of the ticket said? As we walked out, about 3.55pm, we realised it meant the fountains came on at 4pm. Damn…

    • landscapelover
      October 22, 2012

      I do remember that visit, and being just stunned by the size and scale of the garden and how I thought my feet would never recover from all that walking. These days when the fountains come on, they are joined by some dreadful over-amplified baroque music, which makes you wish you’d visited at a time when they were not working…

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