'Too rude' for Louvre, sculpture of man having sex with animal adopted by Pompidou Centre

Titled "Domestikator", the geometric rust-red work by Dutch sculptor Joep van Lieshout suggests a man copulating with a farm animal from behind, his arms on the beast's flanks.
Titled "Domestikator", the geometric rust-red work by Dutch sculptor Joep van Lieshout suggests a man copulating with a farm animal from behind, his arms on the beast's flanks.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - A giant sculpture appearing to show a man having sex with an animal has caused a stir in Paris, where it has been adopted by the Pompidou Centre after being rejected as "too rude" by the Louvre.

Titled "Domestikator", the geometric rust-red work by Dutch sculptor Joep van Lieshout suggests a man copulating with a farm animal from behind, his arms on the beast's flanks.

The work, some 12 metres tall, was initially to be shown in the Tuileries Garden, adjacent to the Louvre, as part of the annual International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) in the French capital.

But at the last minute the Louvre's president Jean-Luc Martinez backed out of hosting it.

In a letter to FIAC's organisers, he said that Internet posts about the sculpture had created "an erroneous perception of this work that might be too rude for the traditional crowd in the Tuileries Garden."

Enter the Pompidou Centre, a beacon of modern art famous for its brightly coloured exterior tubing and the escalators that snake up its facade.

Praising Van Lieshout's sculpture as "a magnificent utopia in harmony with the public space", the Pompidou's director Bernard Blistene said his museum would take it on board.

Visitors to the centre on Wednesday were bemused but generally pleased by the sculpture made of wood, steel and fibreglass.

"I think it really belongs anywhere," said Canadian tourist Rita Sliven. "It's for people to look, to discuss, to be provoked to come out of their dream state."

"It makes you smile," said fellow tourist Sylvain Tailaon, also from Canada, picturing the sculpture by a lakeside house in his homeland. "The neighbours would love it!"

'A bit raw'

Didier Casiglio, an artist from the southern city of Montpellier, thought the sculpture was somewhat out of place, however.

"It would be better in the forest or in a park. Here it's a bit raw," he said.

Van Lieshout, for his part, said he was "happy that visitors to the Pompidou Centre will have the chance to experience this work and I hope that it will generate questions and dialogue around the questions raised by domestication in our world".

The debate around the work comes three years after a giant inflatable sculpture resembling a sex toy was unveiled in a swanky square next to the Ritz hotel.

The piece by US artist Paul McCarthy had to be placed under guard after being vandalised.

FIAC's 44th edition officially runs from Thursday to Sunday, but "Domestikator" took its place on the Pompidou's esplanade on Tuesday.

More than 70 sculptures have been erected across Paris for the occasion.