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France

Paris’s giant ‘butt plug’ installation vandalised

© @Flosh (Twitter) | Paul McCarthy's 'Tree' artwork lies limp after apparently being vandalised

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-10-19

A controversial artwork in the centre of Paris said to resemble a giant green sex toy was apparently vandalised overnight Friday, after critics decried the 80-foot installation as a “humiliation” for the French capital.

Called “Tree”, the piece by US artist Paul McCarthy was erected in Paris’s upmarket Place Vendôme on Thursday as part of the FIAC international art festival which begins next week.

The inflatable artwork is intended to represent a Christmas tree, according to McCarthy, but has caused outrage among some due to its resemblance to an anal plug sex toy, prompting calls for city authorities to remove it.

Feeling has been so strong that McCarthy, 69, has said he was slapped three times in the face by a passer-by as the artwork was unveiled.

Some angry Paris residents now seem to have taken matters into their own hands, with photos posted on Twitter overnight Friday showing the installation lying on its side and looking limp and deflated after apparently being vandalised.

French journalist Renaud Pila tweeted that the FIAC took the decision to deflate the artwork after a number of saboteurs cut the cords holding it up.

The art festival later announced that McCarthy had decided against reinflating the piece as "the artist was worried about potential trouble if the work was put back up".

McCarthy himself said: "Instead of a profound reflection about objects as a mode of expression with multiple meanings, we have witnessed violent reactions."

It follows a social media outcry over the artwork, with French conservative group Printemps Français (French Spring) among those criticising the piece.

The 80-foot installation was erected in the Place Vendôme in central Paris on Thursday. © Bertrand Guay/AFP

“A giant 24-metre butt plug has been erected at Place Vendome,” the group tweeted. “Place Vendome disfigured, Paris humiliated!”

But the attack on the artwork has prompted an equally strong reaction among others, including Paris’s deputy mayor Bruno Julliard.

“Shame and humiliation for France - not the temporary inflatable artwork on the Place Vendome, but the fools who have degraded it,” he tweeted.

McCarthy has asserted the piece is indeed a Christmas tree, but admitted to Le Monde Friday that he was partly inspired by the shape of a butt plug. 

“Originally, I thought that a butt plug had a shape similar to the sculptures of [Romanian artist] Constantin Brâncusi. Afterwards, I realised that it looked like a Christmas tree,” the artist told the newspaper.

“People can be offended if they want to think of it as a plug, but for me it is more of an abstraction.”

Date created : 2014-10-18

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