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Paris’s ‘butt plug’ art work not to be reflated after sabotage attack

Paul McCarthy's Tree in front of the column celebrating Napoleon's victories on the Place Vendôme
Paul McCarthy's Tree in front of the column celebrating Napoleon's victories on the Place Vendôme Reuters/Charles Platiau

The American artist who placed an inflatable sculpture resembling a giant anal plug in a posh Paris square is not going to try again after saboteurs attacked it on Thusday night. Paul McCarthy, 69, said he wanted to avoid confrontation and physical violence.


The work, a 24-metre high green inflatable entitled Tree, is a visual pun on a perceived similarity between a Christmas tree and the sex toy often referred to as a “butt plug” and was to stand in the Place Vendôme during Paris’s annual art fair, Fiac.

It was inaugurated on Thursday at a ceremony during which a man slapped the artist and ran off.

During the night unknown persons cut the air supply and then cut some of the cables that held it up.

Although the work itself was not punctured, the organisers deflated it, judging that it might be a danger to the public.

McCarthy later announced that he would not try and reflate it, saying that he did not want to be involved in “this kind of confrontation and physical violence” and feared more incidents during its reinstallation.

"Instead of a profound reflection about objects as a mode of expression with multiple meanings, we have witnessed violent reactions." he said.

The Tree sparked a buzz on social media with comments bearing the hashtags #Vendôme and #PlugGate either mocking it or condemning it as a sign of the degenerate times.

Far-right groups, who had been involved in last year's anti-gay marriage protests, condemned it and right-wing local councillor Jéröme Dubus demanded that it be taken down.

“You’d think that some people would happily see a return to the official definition of degenerate art,” Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin tweeted on Saturday in a reference to the Nazis’ destruction of modern art works in 1930s Germany.

The first major exhibition of McCarthy’s work in France starts on 25 October and the internet page announcing it warns of the “sexually explicit and sometimes violent” nature of some of his work.

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