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Monday, 20 October 2014

Paul McCarthy's giant "sex toy" inflatable Tree sculpture deflates in Paris

What's the difference between a work of art and an anal sex toy?

Well, according to some, only size - at least when it comes to the most recent work from American artist, Paul McCarthy.

"Tree" a temporary (very much so, as it turned out) 24-metre high inflatable green sculpture "adorned" the swanky Place Vendôme area of Paris last Thursday - but not for very long.

Paul McCarthy's "Tree" (screenshot AFP video report)

Even as it was being erected (no pun intended) "Tree" brought with it controversy as a passerby, clearly offended by its intended "ambiguity", slapped McCarthy in the face, saying that the 69-year-old artist's creation was "un-French" and "had no place on the square".

Organisers of La Foire internationale d’art contemporain (International Contemporary Art Fair , FIAC) set to run from October 23-26 and of which "Tree" was intended to be a part, leapt to McCarthy's defence.

"It's heartbreaking that an artist should be attacked in this manner," Jennifer Flay, the artistic director of FIAC told Le Monde.

"Of course this work is controversial, it plays on the ambiguity between a Christmas tree and sex toy: this is neither a surprise nor a secret," she continued.

"But there is no offence to the public, and enough ambiguity to not upset children. It has also received all the necessary approvals : from the préfecture of police of the city of Paris, the ministry of culture and the comité Vendôme, which represents the business owners on the square."

"What is art meant to be if not to disturb, ask questions and reveal society's flaws?"

Righty-ho. That's justification enough then.

Opponents though were having none of it.

And on the night of Friday to Saturday, a group of protesters cut through the cords holding the artwork in place.

FIAC decided to deflate it to prevent any damage being done, saying that McCarthy requesting them not to reinflate it because, "he was worried about potential trouble if the work was put back up."

"Instead of a profound reflection about objects as a mode of expression with multiple meanings, we have witnessed violent reactions," said the artist who had also admitted earlier that the idea "started with a joke".

"Originally, I thought that a butt plug had a shape similar to the sculptures of Romanian artist Constantin Brâncusi," he said.

"Afterwards, I realised that it looked like a Christmas tree. But it is an abstract work . People can be offended if they want to think of it as a plug, but for me it is more of an abstraction.”

For those of a more um...more timid temperent or delicate disposition among you who've no idea what an anal plug looks like, try typing those words into you search engine and then click on image.

You'll quickly get the picture...and what all the fuss was about.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Friday's French music break - Christine and the queens, "Saint Claude" and the album "Chaleur humaine"

All right, so the last "exception" a couple of weeks ago about not featuring an artist or group more than once as Friday's French music break, is about to be broken again.

And with good reason.

Because the choice this week is "Saint Claude" from the excellent debut album "Chaleur humaine" from Christine and the Queens.

Released in May, "Chaleur humaine" has not only received critical acclaim (and deservedly so) in France, but also internationally as witnessed by this review in The Guardian.

Christine and the queens/Héloïse Letissier (screenshot from "Le Grand Journal" on Canal +)

You might remember earlier this year that Christine and the Queens - actually a one-woman musical project from Héloïse Letissier "combining music, dance, art videos, drawings and photography" was featured as a Friday's French music break with "Nuit 17 à 52".

It was the song Letissier had performed at Les Victoires de la musique (the French equivalent of the Grammy awards), in the category Group or Artist Stage Révélation of the Year for which she was nominated - but didn't win.

The long-awaited debut album "Chaleur humaine" was released in May and it reflects  Letissier's  artistic eclecticism, leading music critics to describe ot as an album "without frontiers".

Sure it's pop, but in the widest sense of the word.

Her music is stylised, melodic and classy - head and shoulders about most of what you might expect to hear on French radio.

And as many journalists have pointed out, it's hard, if not impossible to categorise Letissier's music simply.

The studio versions are as polished and well crafted as you would expect and the videos are similarly outstanding with some natty and intriguing dance moves.

But live, Letissier adds another level, as you can see from a recent appearance on Canal + "Le Grand Journal" and of course that performance at Les Victoires de la musique.

Speaking of live,  Letissier/Christine and the queens is currently on a nationwide tour, including Olympia in Paris in March 2015, and several dates have already sold out.

If you get the chance to see her live, then give yourself a treat, and do.

Also, if there's just one French music album you should buy this year, then make sure it's  "Chaleur humaine".

Oh yes, and here's a prediction.

Not only will Letissier be nominated in several categories at next year's Les Victoires de la musique, she'll also perform (again) and win.

For the moment though here's "Saint Claude" the most recent track to be released as a single from the album ""Chaleur humaine".

But don't be satisfied with that. Discover the rest of the album too.

Bon week-end.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Gisèle Bündchen stars in Chanel N°5 latest commercial

After all the teasing and taunting the new commercial for Chanel N°5 has been released.

Starring Brazilian supermodel (such a cliché) and directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann, it is without doubt an advertising "masterpiece" (which means it captures your attention, if only for its extravagance), running to over three minutes at its longest version and featuring all the glamour and style you would expect.

Gisèle Bündchen (screenshot from Chanel N°5: "The One That I Want - The Film"

But does the self-proclaimed "world's most desirable fragrance" need to spend the spondoolicks on a campaign (and a launch party) for a product which already projects an image of unobtainable luxury.

Bündchen alone was reportedly paid $4 million for her role (admittedly less than the $7 million Brad Pitt apparently received for his yawn-along part in a previous commercial) - and that launch party in New York?

Gisèle Bündchen (screenshot from Chanel N°5: "The One That I Want - The Film

Well, as usual, Chanel is keeping mum about the figures. But the marketing people must know what they're doing - n'est ce pas?

Opinions are divided over the new commercial. "Wonderful" for some, "average" for others.

Perhaps the most captivating element as, in the words of the New York Times review, Bündchen "an overtaxed modern gal" struggles with the complexities of every day life (as if) such as "surfing in the Hamptons, sending her daughter off in the care of a nanny, getting in a quick photo shoot and reuniting with her man for a canoodle at a jazz club" is the background track.

It's an almost soporofic but at the same time hypnotic remake by US singer-songwriter Matthew Hemerlein - better known (apparently) under his stage name Lo-Fang - of the appropriately entitled (for the purposes of the commercial) "You're the won that I want" from the 1978 film version of the musical "Grease"

Conclusion - beautifully shot, definitely bewitching on first viewing (it holds your attention) but as triumphant as previous campaigns - the jury's out.

And whether, as Luhrmann insists, Bündchen "is the perfect modern No.5 woman" - well the answer is a resounding "no."

That accolade belongs - and this is going to appear entirely contradictory to many probably - to the woman, who when asked what she wore in bed, famously said "Chanel No. 5, of course".

Marilyn Monroe surely remains as modern today as she did back in April 1960 - a fact Chanel recognised in a 2012 retro (in fashion you just have to wait a bit for the "old" to become "new" again) campaign.

Marilyn Monroe (screenshot from "Marilyn and N°5 - Inside Chanel")

Marilyn Monroe (screenshot from "Marilyn and N°5 - Inside Chanel")

Anyway, here's Bündchen in Luhrmann's "mini-film" commercial.

You judge for yourselves.

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