Opinion

Paul McCarthy’s XXXmas Tree Plugs Up Paris

Artist Paul McCarthy's gallery coos about the new public work (via @HauserWirth)
Artist Paul McCarthy’s gallery coos about the new public work. (via @HauserWirth/Twitter)

American artist Paul McCarthy has erected his latest Christmas-themed work, “Tree,” and it has plugged up Paris’s Place Vendome for the FIAC Contemporary Art Fair. Regardless of how you feel about the 80-foot-tall work, and its symbolism, I think we can all agree that the massive inflatable sculpture is not only supposed to be a Christmas tree.

The artist was blunt about his thoughts with Le Monde:

It all started with a joke: Originally, I thought that the butt plug had a shape similar to the sculptures of Brancusi. Afterwards, I realized that it looked like a Christmas tree. But it is an abstract work. People can be offended if they want to refer to the plug, but for me it is more of an abstraction.

I’m not sure the sculpture, even as an abstraction, is any good — it falls too easily into the whole ‘take an everyday object and blow it up’ (literally, in this case) genre. Certainly a lot of people are feeling very anal about this Plug de Noël, though probably not in the way you’d suspect. McCarthy was allegedly hit in the face a number of times when installing the sculpture by an unknown assailant, according to Le Monde.

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This isn’t the first Christmas-related controversy for McCarthy. When he created a Santa Claus sculpture for the city of Rotterdam, many citizens thought it was inappropriate and started calling it the “butt plug gnome.” It was later moved from its original site. Paris must’ve known what it was getting when it gave the go-ahead for this, though you have to agree that Rotterdam’s version is slightly more festive:

Paul McCarthy's "Buttplug Gnome" in Rotterdam, 2012 (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
Paul McCarthy’s “Butt Plug Gnome” in Rotterdam, 2012 (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

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