A message to Paris: Paul McCarthy’s butt plugs can be deflated, but they will not be defeated.
Just one week after Paul McCarthy’s 24-meter-tall Place Vendôme installation Tree (2014) was deflated by vandals enraged by its clear resemblance to an anal plug, the artist’s “Chocolate Factory” is set to open this Saturday as the inaugural exhibition of the newly reopened Monnaie de Paris, the city’s 1,150-year-old mint undergoing an ongoing architectural overhaul as a new commercial destination. With even more sex toys—plus the last-minute addition of a vile, immersive response to his detractors—it will at first delight and amuse, then likely confuse and disgust. After delaying the press preview by a day so Mr. McCarthy could add to his vision the fresh rage he felt after a strong backlash by Parisians, the Monnaie de Paris allowed select visitors entry to the exhibition. Here is The Observer’s first-hand account of Mr. McCarthy’s chocolate anal wonderland:
At the top of the Paris Mint’s grand staircase, large-scale inflatable phallic “christmas trees” greet visitors to Mr. McCarthy’s chocolate factory. A pair of blond-wigged chocolatiers delight audiences as they fill molds shaped like butt plugs, and garden gnomes hop around toting dildos spewing molten chocolate. It’s a mini factory erected under the splendor of the Salle Guillaume Dupré’s 18th century chandelier, the sweets surrounded by opulent Baroque décor.
But butt plugs and dildo gnomes are pretty innocuous compared to what you see when you pass through either set of double doors in the back of the room.
Here is the artist’s visceral response to last week’s attack. At the opening of Tree an angry member of the public struck Mr. McCarthy three times in the face, and the installation expresses a similar magnitude of aggressive disgust. Through a succession of dimly lit rooms, the tunnel takes you into the recesses of a sinister chocolate production line turned mad house. Over the rows of chocolate sex toys that fill endless metal shelves, exceptionally large chocolate gnomes are displayed partly lifted from their man-sized molds along with various abandoned factory equipment. And then there’s the projected footage of the artist continuously scrawling the commentary he heard of his own work, including phrases like “EAT SHIT,” “STUPID FUCKER,” and “ARE YOU THE ARTIST??” He repeats the last phrase again and again as a single appalled grunt, and it all culminates in a derelict circular bedroom illuminated solely by projections of the manic scribbles.
The grunts are unnerving enough, but coupled with the never-ending spine-tingling screeching of a sharpie marker on a white board and the pungent cloud of chocolate aroma, the whole experience is rather is nauseating. The faint of heart would choose an open-air inflatable butt plug to this experience any day.
The chocolate statuettes in production are available for purchase at the exhibition gift shop and luxury concept store Colette for €50, and the exhibition is open through January 4.