The Chateau of Versailles gained prominence as the center of French political and social power in the early 17th century. King Louis XIII originally built a hunting lodge in 1624. It was expanded by Louis XIV as a secret retreat and its fame culminated with the opulence of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, late 18th century. Versailles was the seat of power in Europe and the symbol of style, elegance, sophistication and ultimate culture. During the French Revolution {1789 –1799} the king and queen were executed {in 1793}, the monarchy was abolished and the furnishings and artworks of Versailles were destroyed or ordered sold at auction. Napoleon later renovated the chateau and reinstalled original furnishings and paintings.

 

Koons’ highly reflective balloon sculpture in the courtyard of Versailles

The Palace eventually became a museum and today, after its recent restoration, is one of France’s premier tourist attractions. Concerts, government functions and exhibitions are held on the spectacular grounds.

 

Statue of Louis XVI looks down on Koons’ “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” in the Salon of Venus

Jeff Koons, the 21st century King of Pop and Kitsch, and “bad boy” of the contemporary art scene, is exhibiting seventeen of his famous works in the Royal Apartments of Versailles. These rooms are the most prestigious and important areas of the chateau with the highly decorative eighteenth century art and furnishings from the era of Louis XV and XVI. The juxtaposition could not be more startling, ironic – and humorous. A giant “Balloon Dog”, looking like one of those tied balloon toys, but weighing over a ton, sits playfully in the Salon of Hercules with a ceiling fresco of the trials of Hercules staring down and reflecting in the polished chromium steel of the dog’s glistening body. A silvery steel “Rabbit” is installed in the ornately baroque King’s Salon of Abundance. A red, “Hanging Heart” with ribbon, something that looks like it could be on an outdoor Christmas tree, hangs in the marbled staircase alcove; a version of this same heart sold at auction last year for $24.5 million. The most exciting object is the reflective “Moon”, a chromium steel, silver balloon, at the end of the Hall of Mirrors.  Keeping in mind that this exquisite and ornate space was used as a council room by Louis XIV, and was the meeting place for all of European political, royal and cultural events, the irony of a single balloon reflecting the entire space is breathtaking!  A bright red “Lobster”, looking like an inflatable beach toy, hangs in the Mars Salon next to the original crystal chandelier, magnificent Baroque frescos and elaborate portraits of the Kings and Queens.

 

Koons’ “Balloon Dog {Magenta}” in the Salon of Hercules

Surely the Kings of Versailles would have been amused by the Koons playful yet provocative commentary on art and society.

Koons’ “Rabbit” in the Salon of Abundance

 

KDoeotanils ’o “fS “eMlf iPlloer tFriaoitr”i” e.merging from marble crystals in the Salon of Apollo

 

Koons’ “Hanging Heart” in the alcove of the Queens’s staircase





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