A Palace of Versailles defence group and a descendant of the man who had it built, Louis XIV, are seeking an injunction against works by Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami being shown there.
“It’s about translating into judicial terms the debate and opposition that have been raised by exposing Murakami works,” Arnaud Upinsky, president of the Versailles Defence Coordination, said of the show that opened September 14.
The 48-year-old Japanese artist’s hugely popular work evokes the look of “manga” comic books, depicting often giant characters in multi-coloured metal, fibreglass and acrylic, currently set against the palace’s rococo splendour.
The suit is being brought by prince Sixte-Henri de Bourbon-Parme in defence of “respecting the chateau and ancestors” while the “people”, represented by seven visitors, are suing to defend the “right to access to heritage.”
“By exhibiting at Versailles, artists benefit from an added value. We’re not against the modernity of art but against a way of thinking that denatures and does French culture no good,” the prince said.
In 2008, his nephew, prince Charles-Emmanuel de Bourbon-Parme, tried to get a show featuring US artist Jeff Koons’s bright and bizarre sculptures banned, saying it dishonoured his family’s past, but the courts dismissed his bid.
“Bringing displeasure before justice is always difficult and, as two years ago, we’re going to seek a temporary injunction from the Versailles administrative court for serious violation of basic freedoms.”
French King Louis XVI was driven from the chateau by revolutionaries in 1789 and guillotined four years later. His ancestor Louis XIV had set up court there in the 17th century, living in his royal apartments — site of the exhibition.
Visitors in 2008 flocked to the Koons show and to the second in the series in 2009, with works by French pop artist Xavier Veilhan including futuristic purple horses, a naked woman, and a colossal four-metre (13-foot) long Yuri Gagarin.
Murakami’s show, which runs to December 12, is his first major retrospective in France.