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.