First we had Paul McCarthy’s giant inflatable ‘sex toy’ sculpture being reduced to a flaccid lump of plastic on one of Paris’s swankiest squares after vandals attacked the work ‘Tree’ when it was on display at the Place Vendome in Paris. Now, in the wake of criticism for Anish Kapoor’s latest work in Versailles ‘Dirty Corner’ – the work was subsequently vandalised – and now Kapoor has responded to that act by writing a column for the Guardian, decrying the violent act against his work and discussing art’s potentially disruptive influence.
Kapoor blames the “vicious voice of the few” for dominating the debate over the piece and inspiring the vandal’s actions. The artist went on to ponder whether to remove the paint thrown on the work, or to let what he believes was “politically-motivated vandalism” become part of the piece.
“Can I, the artist, transform this crass act of political vandalism and violence into a creative act? Would this not be the best revenge?” he asks. Although a photo accompanying his column shows workers scrubbing the splattered paint away, so it appears the artist has now made the choice to return the artwork to its original undamaged state.
Kapoor controversially referred to the work as a vagina – inadvertently juxtaposing the sculpture with the McCarthy’s ‘Tree’ that the American artist referenced as a sex toy – sparking the current unrest, Kapoor potentially sees “the dirty politics of exclusion, marginalisation, elitism, racism, [and] Islamophobia” as the cause. Although the artist has denied that there is any similarity between Dirty Corner and Paul McCartney’s overtly sexual Tree.
But Kapoor does admit that the work was meant to conflict with its current setting, and is to some extent an act of ‘artistic violence’ against Versailles.
“It engages in a disruptive conversation with the palace’s geometric rigidity. It looks under the carpet of [Andre] Le Nôtre’s tapis vert and allows the uncomfortable, even the sexual,” he notes.
However the artist draws a distinction between his brand of artistic violence, which may make its audience uncomfortable but hopes to promote new ideas and possibilities, and political violence, which looks only to censor and destroy, in this instance via an attack of the painterly variety, rather than a bomb.
“Simplistic political views are offended by the untidiness of art,” Kapoor concludes. “Art is seen as obscene and destroyed.”