Anal Chic


Paul-McCarthy-sculpture-2It would be hard to think of a more fashionable hunk of real estate than the Place Vendôme in Paris, that center of haute couture and five-star hotels that doesn’t just follow but legislates good taste. So when a monumental sculpture by U.S. artist Paul McCarthy arrived for the holidays, it was welcomed as a festive addition to the great plaza. Pointedly named Tree, the eighty-foot-tall inflatable object appeared to exhibit the major design elements of a Christmas tree: green in color, check; shaped like an inverted cone, check…

But before too long, as in the story about the Emperor’s new clothes, someone was brave or foolhardy enough to point out that the object might just have another meaning. (This being Paris, doubtless there was much talk about the signifier and the signified.) Suddenly everyone was aghast, the artist was roundly condemned in the media, and the “tree” was deflated (though the authorities blamed vandals and vowed to reinflate). McCarthy himself admitted that his inspiration was indeed a butt plug—“I realized that it looked like a Christmas tree”—which was then reverse engineered, as it were, to the new purpose. Anyway, given McCarthy’s taste for the avant-garde, perhaps the good people of Paris can be thankful that Tree didn’t arrive fully decorated according to its original function.