Versailles Vandals Vex Kapoor 'Vagina'

VERSAILLES -- A massive sculpture commonly referred to as "The Queen's Vagina," currently on display outside of Paris in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, was spray-painted with anti-Semitic and royalist graffiti on Saturday night.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network have viewed numerous artistic installations in this regal setting.

Vandals defaced the sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor with anti-Semitic phrases such as "SS blood sacrifice," and "the second rape of the nation by deviant Jewish activism." They also scrawled Catholic and royalist statements on the installation, including "Queen sacrificed, twice insulted," and "Christ is king in Versailles."

Kapoor, a 61-year-old British-Indian artist with Jewish family, announced Sunday he did not want the graffiti cleaned, and that the phrases would become part of the sculpture, which will be on display until November. A spokesman for the palace confirmed the graffiti would be kept intact, as per the artist's wishes.

"From now on, these abominable words will be part of my work, they will transcend it, stigmatize it, in the name of our universal principles," Kapoor told French daily Le Figaro. "I would rather heed the little voice that tells me to forget about the artist and think of the citizen."

Second Vandalism Attempt

The 200-foot long giant funnel made of rusty steel was already vandalized back in June, when the inside of the pipe was splashed with yellow paint. Le Figaro highlighted the anti-Semitic undertones of the June vandalism, suggesting the paint color was a reference to the identifying yellow Star of David badges Jews were forced to wear during World War II.

The official titled for the sculpture is Dirty Corner, and it is one of eight works by Kapoor that have been on display at Versailles since June 9.

In a May 2015 interview with French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, Kapoor described the sculpture as "the queen's vagina taking power," earning the installation its controversial moniker.

Born in Mumbai in 1954, Kapoor moved to London to study art in the 1970s and soon became famous for his abstract geometric monumental sculptures. He is also known for designing Britain's tallest piece of public art, the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower, which was commissioned for the London 2012 Olympics.

Contemporary art installations at Versailles -- France's ode to baroque architecture -- have a habit of stirring up controversy.

Far-Right Faction

In 2008, a man who claimed to be a direct descendant of Louis XIV tried to ban a Jeff Koons exhibition on grounds that the work was disrespectful to his royal ancestors.

Prince Charles-Emmanuel de Bourbon-Parme eventually lost his case against the organizers of the art show. In 2010, the Versailles, mon amour (Versailles, my love) collective rose up in arms against an exhibit of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami's work.

Institute for International and Strategic Relationships research fellow Jean-Yves Camus said he was confused by the variety of slogans spray-painted onto the sculpture.

"There are a few surprising elements in this case," he said. "The reference to the SS is inconsistent with the rest of the graffiti. Catholic fundamentalists and royalists — whatever you may think of them — are not neo-Nazis."

"The traditional [French] royalist community… does not condone this type of action," said the expert, who also works for the European Center for Research and Action against Racism and Antisemitism (CERA). "Having said that, there are also many small groups, who don't view ideological consistency as a priority."

Camus also highlighted what he called "an avowed hatred" toward modern art by groups on the far right.

"They often base their argument on the notion of a return to the values of our Greek and Roman civilization, where figurative art traditionally embodied beauty," he explained. "In that case, it's more a question of taste."

"But there is also a school of thought that has modern art labeled as deviant art -- a concept entertained by people who think that anything that's not classical art is inherently bad and soul-destroying. And often, people associate deviant art with Jews."

Officers with the urban safety police unit at Versailles are currently investigating the vandalism. Authorities declined to comment on how the vandals were able to gain access to the sculpture. The Palace of Versailles -- like many other French tourist spots -- has seen its security enhanced over the last decade as part of Vigipirate, France's longstanding national security alert system.

French president François Hollande tweeted his "solidarity" to Anish Kapoor on Sunday. Following a visit to the installation Sunday, French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin called the vandalism an "attack on freedom of creation. Unspeakable vandalism and messages of hatred on Anish Kapoor's work at Versailles. Stupidity and violence against culture."

Today's homepage Featured Art Video looks at the Anish Kapoor installation throughout Versailles.