Louvre pulls sculpture, saying it was sexually explicit

The Louvre has withdrawn the large installation Domestikator for being sexually explicit.
The Louvre has withdrawn the large installation Domestikator for being sexually explicit.PHOTO: NYTIMES

PARIS (NYTIMES) - The Louvre has withdrawn a large installation by a Dutch art and design collective for being sexually explicit - right on the heels of the Guggenheim's decision to pull three controversial artworks from its upcoming China show.

The piece - Domestikator by the collective Atelier Van Lieshout, whose outline depicts copulation - was to go on view Oct. 19 in the Louvre's Tuileries Gardens as part of Hors les Murs, a public art program organised by the Fiac contemporary art fair.

"This is something that should not happen," Joep van Lieshout, the collective's founder, said in a telephone interview. "A museum should be an open place for communication. The task of the museum and the press is to explain the work." "The piece itself, it's not really very explicit," van Lieshout added. "It's a very abstracted shape. There are no genitals; it's pretty innocent."

The London-based gallery Carpenters Workshop, which represents Atelier Van Lieshout, said in a statement that the Louvre's decision was "very damaging for the artists and the Fiac program," adding, "The artwork symbolises the power of humanity over the world and its hypocritical approach to nature." A spokeswoman for the Louvre said that the choice of the works exhibited in the Tuileries Gardens within the framework of the Fiac is made by three committees.

"The work Domestikator was presented after these commissions," the spokeswoman said, which didn't allow for a discussion of the "presentation in the garden collegially." The number of contemporary works presented in the Tuileries during this year's Fiac is particularly important, the spokeswoman continued. It is about 30, while some 20 pieces were usually offered for public view of the many garden visitors.

The French publication Le Monde reported that the Louvre's director, Jean-Luc Martinez, sent a letter to Fiac raising concerns about the piece.

"Online commentaries point out this work has a brutal aspect," Martinez said in the letter. "It risks being misunderstood by visitors to the gardens." The museum also raised concerns about the sculpture, which is 40 feet high, being situated near a children's playground.

In the past three years, the Domestikator has been exhibited at the Ruhrtriennale in Bochum, Germany, where it remains on view until Wednesday.

The Carpenters Workshop said that the Paris City Hall had offered to help find an alternative public space for the artwork, but that "it was too late."