PARIS (AFP) - A giant inflatable green sculpture erected on one of Paris's swankiest squares, has people so hot and bothered over its resemblance to a sex toy that American artist Paul McCarthy was slapped by a passer-by.
The 24m-high artwork, called "Tree" was unveiled on Thursday on the Vendome Square alongside the Ritz Hotel and luxury jewelry stores, and has provoked a storm of mirth and outrage on social media.
"Hey Paris. Your Christmas tree is a little... off," said one Twitter user, over the sculpture's jarring resemblance to a sex-toy called a butt-plug.
"J'adore your giant butt-plug Christmas tree Paris," wrote another.
Contemporary artist Paul McCarthy, 69, is known for his controversial and ambiguous works, but even he was surprised at the reception he got in Paris.
On Thursday afternoon, a man slapped him three times in the face, yelling that he was not French and his work had no business on the square, before running off, reported Le Monde daily.
"Does this kind of thing happen often in France," said the bemused artist.
However he admits that the ambiguity of his work is not entirely accidental.
"It all started as a joke: at first I found the anal plug had a similar form to Brancusi's sculptures," he told the newspaper, referring to Romanian Constantin Brancusi, considered a pioneer of modern sculpture.
"Then I realised it resembled a Christmas tree, but it is an abstract work."