Many Parisians are outraged over the latest sculpture to be erected in public view. Standing 24ft above the Place Vendrome in the French capital, ‘Tree’ by American artist Paul McCarthy has raised eyebrows for its startling similarity to not a traditional Christmas tree it is said to represent, but an thick green butt-plug.
McCarthy, something of an art world provocateur, created the piece for Foire International d’Art Contemporain (FIAC), an exhibition running in Paris until the end of October, in the hopes that it’d be accepted, even enjoyed by the allegedly sexually liberal French. Placed adjacent to the Vendrome Column, a monument erected by Emperor Napoleon after defeating the Roman army at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. Many Parisians failed to find McCarthy’s irreverence amusing and instead of ignoring the piece for the duration of its exhibition, took to vandalism to make their point.
Severing the ropes that held ‘Tree’ upright, outraged Parisian vandals cut the offending object down to size, leaving it lifeless and deflated, flaccid even, in the city square before eventually being removed by organizers. McCarthy has fired back at his attackers – an irate Frenchman struck McCarthy in the head multiple times at the piece’s unveiling – in a statement made to artnet News: “Instead of the piece being about a discussion about how objects exist as language with layers of meaning, a violent reaction occurred. I am not interested in the possibility of such confrontation and physical violence, or continuing to put those around the object at risk.”
Unfortunately, though, ‘Tree’ doesn’t seem to speak to cases of sexual violence perpetrated against those still, in the year of your chosen deity 2014, find themselves persecuted simply for being more sexually interesting (read: positively perverted) than their decriers, instead drawing much attention to McCarthy’s fecally-reminiscent Parisian exhibition, Chocolate Factory, opening Saturday at Monnaie de Paris. What a wasted opportunity.