Versailles and modern art: back to the future

The Palace of Versailles: a traditional institution focused on the past? Not at all! Since 2008, current big names in modern art have been moving in and reinventing it for the better. Indeed, every year they give us a new reason to (re)visit Versailles.

2017: a winter trip on its head

For the event’s tenth year, an artists’ collective is invited to Versailles. Commissioned by the Palais de Tokyo, a new visitor experience has taken shape between the trees, “from the glory of autumn to the dazzling crystallization of winter”. You’ll see Sheila Hicks, Jean-Marie Appriou, Oliver Beers and Rick Owens there, amongst others.

2016: Olafur Eliasson, new possibilities

This Danish-Icelandic artist humbly took over Versailles and its gardens with a selection of six installations based on water, the environment, and self-perception. An optical dance bathed in light.

2015: Anish Kapoor, a double-edged sword

From the Palace of Versailles gardens to the Jeu de Paume room, the six imposing installations from the Indian Artist, Anish Kapoor, made for a shocking exhibition that stuck in your memory, just like his Dirty Corner, which symbolised “the queen’s vagina seizing power”.

2014: Lee Ufan, a contemplative stroll

The Korean painter and sculptor, a master of minimalism, was a subtle presence in Versailles. His deft, economical work contemplates the void through pieces composed mainly of stone, as silent additions to the landscape. A captivating take on oneirism.

2013: Giuseppe Penone, poverty art in the kingdom of splendour

The leader of arte povera, the Italian artist Giuseppe Penone examines the relationship between men and nature, dotting Le Nôtre’s gardens with sculptures of trees in wood, stone, and bronze.

2012: Joana Vasconcelos, the reigning queen

The Palace’s first female guest artist, Portugal’s famous Joana Vasconcelos, displayed her extravagant, joyful pieces in the Galerie des Glaces, in a celebration of audacity, experimentation, and freedom.

2011: Bernar Venet, a triumphant encounter

The Nice-based artist Bernar Venet, the founder of conceptual art, exhibited seven monumental pieces on the Versailles and Marly estates: imposing circular arches in brown steel, made especially for the event.

2010: Takashi Murakami, an ode to joy

With much humour and a great imagination, the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami came up with a combination of history and the present day, manga aesthetics and pop culture, for the “Versailles wonderland”.

2009: Xavier Veilhan, on a large scale

Through a stroll dotted with spectacular sculptures, the plastic artist Xavier Veilhan successfully overcame the challenge of merging with the architecture of Versailles, in an eloquent dialogue.

2008: Jeff Koons, king of excess

The super star American artist confronted the baroque interiors of the royal apartments with exuberance and unabashed bad taste. The joyful frenzy of Louis XIV’s parties, perpetuated through tawdry sculptures.

Getting to Versailles