Artwork said to be sexually explicit pulled from Louvre

PARIS • After the Louvre demurred, an art installation many consider to be sexually explicit will instead be displayed outside the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

The 12m-tall Domestikator, by Dutch art and design collective Atelier Van Lieshout, was intended to be shown in the Tuileries Gardens, next to the Louvre, as part of the Fiac contemporary art fair this month.

The Louvre had an apparent change of heart, however, and announced it was withdrawing the sculpture.

Questions about freedom of expression were raised after the decision and now the work will be on view outside the Pompidou, starting on Wednesday.

"To have this major piece in front of the Pompidou is a victory," said Mr Julien Lombrail, director of the London-based gallery Carpenters Workshop, which represents Atelier Van Lieshout.

"It's an incredible moment for Paris and the public," he added, "when we have so many issues surrounding art and censorship.

"It's important for us to engage for the future."

Le Monde reported late last month that the Louvre's president and director, Mr Jean-Luc Martinez, had sent a letter raising concerns about the installation with Fiac's organisers.

"Online commentaries point out this work has a brutal aspect," he was quoted as saying. "It risks being misunderstood by visitors to the gardens."

Mr Joep van Lieshout, the art collective's founder, said at the time that "this is something that should not happen".

"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," he added. "It's a very abstracted shape."

Other sexually graphic artworks have caused uproars in Paris in the past.

In 2014, an enormous green sculpture resembling a sex toy by American artist Paul McCarthy sparked objections when it was displayed in Place Vendome as part of a Fiac programme.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Artwork said to be sexually explicit pulled from Louvre'. Print Edition | Subscribe