An 80-foot green inflatable sculpture that looked like a sex toy was displayed at the Place Vendome in Paris this week before it was deflated by vandals. The artwork was supposed to have been part of the FIAC Art Fair, which runs from Oct. 23 to Oct. 26.
The sculptor, U.S. artist Paul McCarthy, 69, told Le Monde that his erection, titled “Tree,” was an “abstract work” whose inspiration came from a joke about a sex toy as well as being inspired by a Christmas tree.
Jokes abounded from the sculpture; a hashtag #PlugGate was created as a response, and the French conservative group Printemps Français (French Spring) reacted by saying, “Place Vendome disfigured, Paris humiliated!,” according to the French TV station France 24.
McCarthy asserted that when he visited the sculpture, he was slapped three times by an observer who yelled that McCarthy was not French and that the artwork had “no business being on the square” before fleeing.
The vandals destroyed the sculpture by overcoming a metal fence, then severing the power supply to the pump and one of its straps, according to The Telegraph. McCarthy had no desire for a recreation of the sculpture. Paris’s deputy mayor Bruno Julliard tweeted, “Shame and humiliation for France–not the temporary inflatable artwork on the Place Vendome, but the fools who have degraded it. Paris will not give in to intolerance and hatred. We will always defend the freedom of creation.”
In 2011, McCarthy sculpted sexually explicit artwork depicting former U.S. President George W. Bush.