Murakami at Versailles

Murakami at Versailles - Oval Buddha

Murakami at Versailles - Guards' Room

Following on from the inaugural contemporary art exhibition at Versailles two years ago in which the polite classes had heart attacks over Jeff Koons' sculptures,  this year the guest artist at the Chateau is Japanese art super star Takashi Murakami. 

Murakami at Versailles - Kaikai Kiki

Murakami at Versailles - Yume Lion (The Dream Lion)

Since it opened in September, there have been many criticisms of the exhibition. The most obvious is from royalists and traditionalists, and should be discounted for its sheer closed-mindedness and tedium, but many have also cited controversy over the choice of artist being fuelled by financial, rather than artistic, reasons. The argument being that the sponsors of the exhibition may have influenced the choice of Murakami, as with such a high profile artist, the show was sure to be a blockbuster and was sure to bring in money. Questions of influence and financial sway were perhaps more relevant for the Jeff Koons exhibition, but in both cases, if you're going to put on a contemporary art show at one of the world's most monumental historical venues, it seems befitting to choose the biggest stars on the scene.

Other detractors have bemoaned the curation of the show, saying the works do not contrast well with the setting but seem rather to have been arbitrarily placed in much the same pattern as the works in the Koons exhibition. And yet the intricate, rounded forms of the flower sculpture in the Hall of Mirrors echo perfectly the forms of the line of twinkling chandeliers, Kai Kai and Kiki play cheekily in the ballroom, and the immense bronze and gold Buddha presides magnificently (regally?) over the gardens. The silver and gold of Murakami's sculptures directly echo the silver and gold found in the chateau, particularly with the large gold lion which can be compared and contrasted to original regal golden lions we find throughout the chateau's rooms.

Murakami at Versailles - Flower Matango - Galerie des Glaces

Murakami at Versailles - Oval Buddha Silver

Murakami at Verailles - Kinoku Isu

Murakami at Versailles

Murakami, who has collaborated with Louis Vuitton and Pharell Williams, who has a factory of artists working for him and who repeatedly borrows images from manga cartoons, represents wealth, excess, popular culture. In his art, Murakami irons out the differences between low and high culture, rendering it, to borrow his own term, superflat.  His gleaming, exaggerated, colourful works echo, rather than clash with,  their surroundings at the grandiose abode of Louis XIV. Each room offers a delicious, decadent Murakami bonbon to be savoured in the original palace of luxury, a place that has always been about art, creativity, extravagance and beauty, the Chateau de Versailles. 

Murakami at Versailles

The exhibition finishes this Sunday, 12th December. Brave the snow and catch it while you can!

Place des Armes, 78000 Versailles
RER C to Versailles Rive Gauche from central Paris

Gardens at Versailles under the snow

all images copyright Kim Laidlaw - I Heart Paris 2010 


  1. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the exhibition. For me, the juxtaposition between Murakami's absurdity and the regal palace was dead on!

  2. I really enjoyed it, too! Although I would perhaps argue that Murakami's work is more of an echo to the palace than a juxtoposition with it- is a fresco of Apollo on the ceiling any less absurd than a golden buddha? Although, I do agree that visually the Murakami works are a juxtoposition in the first instance and really stand out the setting of the palace - I loved the anticipation of entering each new room and finding a new, colourful, fun surprise!

  3. Great photos! I visited last Wednesday and thought it was great! As an American, I'm shocked at how much controversy this collaboration raised; I think it's a fantastic juxtaposition. Also, considering how popular some aspects of Japanese culture are in France (sushi, manga, Hello Kitty and the Louis Vuitton-Murakami bags, etc.), it surprised me that this was Murakami's first public exhibition in France.

    Happy to see one of my favorite hometown galleries (Blum & Poe) represented at Versailles!

  4. Hi Nicole,

    Glad you like the photos! Well, I guess as an American you wouldn't encounter too much outrage from Royalists about 17th century palaces... Even though the traditionalists' predispositioned outrage to these exhibitions bores me to tears, their objections are to be expected (that's partly what makes it so tedious).

    Whilst this may be Murakami's first solo exhibition in Paris in a state building, he has has exhibited with his Paris gallery (and Blum & Poe's French counterpart) Emmanuel Perrotin - he had a very good solo show there last year (and he had a cover on Clark Magazine to coincide with it). Read about it here if you missed it

    Kim x