Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos installed a pair of giant stiletto shoes in the palace of Versailles on Monday, becoming the first female contemporary artist featured in an exhibit at the former home of French kings and queens.
The stilettos, made of stainless steel cookware, are an artwork called Marilyn 2011. They are being displayed in the palace's celebrated Hall of Mirrors. A dozen other sculptures by Vasconcelos have also been installed in staterooms and throughout the grounds.
Vasconcelos's art, often made of household objects or fabrics, reflects on her view of the feminine experience.
In such grand surroundings, the artist said her interest was not only to focus on French nobility, but also on the many women who worked at the palace. In a press statement, Vasconcelos said the work featured is intended as an "ode to women’s achievements, both in the private and public spheres."
The artist explores Marie Antoinette, the infamous Dauphine of France, in Perruque, 2012. The work is a large-scale wig situated in the former queen’s state apartment.
"The helicopter and the wig piece in her room, they were done thinking about not only Marie Antoinette but all the women that lived here and had their children here and, you know, they were here for their lives. So this was done in honour of all these women," Vasconcelos said.
Meanwhile, a hot pink helicopter made of ostrich feathers and Swarovski crystals was on display in a room dedicated to the ascension of King Louis-Philippe.
Joins famed past artists
Jeff Koons’s giant balloon animals and Takashi Murakami’s technicolour sculptures are among the contemporary exhibits that have been seen at Versailles since the venue began showcasing modern artists in 2008.
However, Vasconcelos is the first woman to have her work featured. More than four million visitors stream through Versailles annually.
"As an artist, I felt we needed to bring more contemporary art here to show that Versailles is alive, and that it is a place which can talk about contemporary issues, not just past ones. That works can exist here and that people can to a certain extent still belong to Versailles today," she said.
Vasconcelos, 41, came to the world’s attention at the 2005 Venice Biennale with A Noiva (the bride), a huge chandelier made of more than 25,000 tampons.
She has filled the Battle Gallery at Versailles — home to paintings depicting French military victories — with textile installations, their soft edges a contrast to the scenes of guns and slaughter.
"My goal was to be part of it naturally, but with contemporary speech, contemporary textiles and materials of today...integrating the space," she said.
The exhibit Joana Vasconcelos Versailles runs June 19 to Sept. 30.