(via @Flosh)

(via @Flosh)

After a rough start for Paul McCarthy’s 80-foot tall “Tree,” which included a few punches and name calling by people unhappy with the artist’s provocation, the inflatable green sculpture has been, well, unplugged.

Within a day of being unveiled, “Tree” was already the target of critics, who turned off the fan keeping it inflated on Friday night. Later, several straps that were keeping the work securely in place were severed, according to Le Figaro. Eventually, authorities decided to deflate the sculpture after the artist agreed that its time in Place Vendôme was over.

Le Figaro reports that McCarthy said (translation mine):

Au lieu d’engendrer une réflexion profonde autour de l’existence même des objets comme mode d’expression à part entière, notamment dans la pluralité de leur signification, nous avons assisté à de violentes réactions. (Instead of generating a deep reflection on the very existence of objects as a means of expression in itself, especially in the plurality of its meaning, we have witnessed violent reactions.)

French Minister of Culture Fleur Pellerin defended the work and criticized vandals in two tweets (1, 2):

La dégradation volontaire d’une œuvre, quel que soit le jugement esthétique qu’elle inspire, n’est pas seulement une infraction pénale. C’est une atteinte insupportable à la liberté de création. Sans parler de l’agression physique d’un artiste. Soutien à Paul #McCarthy (Voluntary degradation of a work, whatever the aesthetic judgment it inspires, is not only a criminal offense. This is an intolerable infringement of creative freedom. Not to mention the physical assault of an artist. Support Paul #McCarthy)

While the work is no longer on display, the controversy has certainly generated a lot of interest in McCarthy’s large Chocolate Factory show, which opens next week in Paris.

Another view of the deflated "Tree" (via @nalan2000)

Another view of the deflated “Tree” (via @nalan2000)

Needless to say, #pluggate, as some people have been calling it, is already being meme-ified:

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 4.32.33 AM

An unfortunate play on the serious #BringBackOurGirls hashtag (via @ParisZigZag)

(by Michael Hanson, via Zach Alan's Facebook profile page)

(by Michael Hanson, via Zach Alan’s Facebook profile page)

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

12 replies on “Paul McCarthy’s Epic Plug de Noël Goes Flaccid After Mounting Problems”

  1. if only the buttplug had lasted long enough to have it’s own twitter feed, they could’ve gotten the “dongs all over the world” girls to do a video for it

    YouTube video
  2. Guess the people of Paris
    unliked the giant butt plug. On the other hand, it’s starting to grow on me. Maybe
    it’s just familiarity, and whatever is put in the spotlight long enough begins
    to gain the priceless iconic quality. Worked with balloon dogs, so why not with
    butt plugs.

    And the fate of the sculpture is precisely what happened to the 60 ft
    “Sigmund the Sea Monster Dong”, only it didn’t even last a day before
    it was deflated. Life imitates parody.

    Speaking of which, there’s an interview with Paul McCarthy talking about his
    “Tree” on YouTube that I have reason to believe may also be a parody:

    YouTube video
  3. #buttplug I agree with Jessica, deflation proves to be good marketing! 😉 On the other hand, provocation is so mainstream in art (world/market) that we might’ve forgotten how much it can make people angry -especially integrists.

  4. Please stop this disaster art is art and the wandelful sculpture of Paul McCarthy is the best art in the world . I like the Geert tree is the best masterprice in the world and best exhibition in europea nazionel in Paris critical by Roberto Scala

  5. In Rotterdam a few years ago, I saw a similar installation of McCarthy’s butt plug sculptures. It was silly and lame. I would blame McCarthy himself for the endlessly puerile crap he makes, but the bigger blame is on these European cities that should have better taste in public art.

  6. What I find so disheartening about this situation is that on principle I am moved to (at least verbally) defend the work being publicly displayed and exist and not be vandalized. But then I am faced with the actual content of the work and I have to say that McCarthy has been doing this same sort of thing for a long time and perhaps at some point it had some critical power, but for a long time it has been (as someone else here noted) puerile and silly. I wish when we argued based on the principle of public art being a space for the free exchange of (challenging or difficult) ideas that we had better work to allow us to sustain that position.

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