C’est Versailles/selliasreV tse’C (à la Kapoor/roopaK)
First-time visitors to Paris run to see…the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Le Louvre, Sacré-Coeur, the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d’Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe and…the Château de Versailles. Old-timers like me revisit the museums to see the latest exhibitions, but we don’t bother too much anymore with Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe since we see them in our everyday lives and don’t need to revisit them. “Been there, done that.”
Versailles is on that list, too. It’s a ‘schlep’ to get out there, a long walk from the RER station, takes a whole day to enjoy and then there’s that attitude: “once you’ve seen one château, you’ve seen them all.” I confess I had it. Versailles seemed a bit overwhelming and preferred to visit smaller sweeter versions, such as Fontainebleau or Vaux-le-Vicomte. I guess that’s why I hadn’t been in too many years to count — an embarrassing number in fact.
Then artist Anish Kapoor came to Versailles and installed six major works in the gardens that are getting lots of attention, even if not from those who appreciate his works. I just HAD to see them for myself and bought tickets online for a full pass to all areas of the château and grounds. Recovering from a two-week virus, we “Ubered” over instead of training it — less than €50 each way and a whole lot easier. That little convenience also saved about half the time of getting there. Spoil yourself if you can — it’s worth it.
Versailles is not the same Versailles I had visited too many years ago to count. It’s well organized and uncomplicated with a beautifully orchestrated presentation of the history of the château one can leisurely peruse along with an audio guide before entering the main chambers. The main chambers are sensational of course, including the famous “Galerie des Glaces” (Hall of Mirrors), but it was Anish Kapoor’s touch I had come to see.
Kapoor is a Bombay-born Londoner who is well known in Paris, particularly for an exhibition in 2011 of his “Leviathan” work at the Grand Palais. Like the Pyramid is to the Louvre, Kapoor’s contemporary and conceptual works at Versailles juxtapose in contrast against the centuries-old and classical architecture and gardens in a way that exaggerate both. “The very controlled landscape of Versailles is drawn into instability. The grounds become uncertain and moving. Waters swirl. Romantic ruins take hold of the Tapis Vert. Exposed interior orifices are hidden within the garden’s labyrinths. The mirrors that are so central to Versailles now distort it. This world is perhaps about to tip over,” wrote Catherine Pégard, President of the Palace of Versailles.
The reflective works are interactive and playful. The “C-Curve” and the “Sky Mirror” are both wonderfully fun in which to find yourself along with the château and gardens — distorted and confusing, yet clear and clarifying. It’s impossible to describe the sensation of the contradictions like a ying-yang that works so much better hung together rather than apart.
Shockingly, Kapoor’s massive sculpture “Dirty Corner” (steel-and-rock sculpture 60 meters long and 10 meters high) has been vandalized, not once, but now three times. Spray painted with anti-Semitic phrases that he has called “a violent attack against the human spirit and culture.” The graffiti will be left on the work and he has challenged the museums of the world “to show this work as it is now, as it shall remain.”
Critics of the work have demonized it for being an “attack on French cultural heritage” nicknaming it “the queen’s vagina” as a symbol for the sexual power of the queen. (Leave it to the French to find something sexual in everything!)
But, this is just ‘sour grapes.’ Rent a Go-Cart to visit the grounds, or take the little train that shuttles from one point to another, or rent a bike or if fit enough, hoof it to visit the massive gardens and park as well as the Grand and Petit Trianons. If you haven’t been to Versailles in as many years as me, then don’t wait till the exhibition closes on November 1st.
Notes: The exhibition is free, except on days of the Musical Fountains Show and the Musical Gardens (every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday). The gardens are open everyday from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. except on Saturdays until September 19th: closing at 5:30 pm. The exhibition will also be accessible on the evenings of the Night Fountains Shows, on Saturdays until November 1st.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(in the Galerie des Glaces)
P.S. We’re looking for a studio or one bedroom (approximately 30m2) apartment in Paris in which we can film a House Hunters International episode that needs complete renovation! The filming takes place the first few days of October, takes about three hours with a small crew. There is no remuneration, but just the pleasure of seeing your apartment on American TV with millions of viewers! If you have such a property or know if someone who does, please contact me immediately at [email protected]
P.P.S. You are invited, free of charge, to a culinary demonstration in English by Chef Sibel Pinto on September 28th at 7 p.m. at Le Cordon Bleu themed “Travel to Turkey.” Sign up in advance