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Arts, Aesthetics and Audacity

A camera iconSee a slideshow of Jeff Koons sculptures at Versailles.

To view the New York Times slideshow, click here.

While on a research sabbatical in Paris in September 2008, Associate Professor Fabienne Moore was drawn to art art exhibit titled "Jeff Koons Versailles."  The show, which ran from September 10, 2008 to January 4, 2009, show cased 17 works by the American artist, Jeff Koons, in one of France's most well-known palaces, Versailles.

Moore's teaching and research focuses on eighteenth-century French culture and literature.  She plans to use the images in her third-year survey course (FR 318) on 17th and 18th century French literature and culture ; and in graduate seminars on the Enlightenment.

Some of the issues raised by the exhibit included:

  • Interplay and echoes between Koons's sculptures and the period rooms where he placed them, for expample: "Large Vase of Flowers" in the Queen's bedroom; Hoover vacuum cleaners in the dining room's antechamber with portraits of queens; "Hanging Heart" in the queen's stairwell; Michael Jackson in front of Louis XIV; the hanging "Lobster" in the Salon of Mars, etc.
  • When wealth leads to grandeur and extravagance: parallels between Louis XIV's Versailles and the lifestyle and spending of today's rich and famous like Michael Jackson portrayed in the exhibition.
  • Baroque theme of illusion as interpreted by Jeff Koons in various sculptures.
  • High and low culture now and then: today's popular culture vs. ancien regime elitism. For example the "Pink Panther" in the Salon of Peace.
  • The aesthetic of kitsch and the aesthetic of the baroque: similarities and differences.
  • Exhibiting modern art in a historical location: pros and cons.
  • Jeff Koons's agenda: self-promotion? irony? social commentary? debunking of a national symbol? shock value?
  • Art vs. decoration. The importance of decorative arts in ancien regime France.
  • Philosophical disagreement during the Enlightenment on luxury (essential or superfluous?): how about today?
  • Patronage of artists today and then.

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