Tom Jacobs

Public art: Friend or enema…?

public art
Image: AP Photo/Jacques Brinon - Before...

Hearing Paul McCarthy’s “Tree” in Paris had lost its mojo, Tom Jacobs wades into the public art debate, feeling the piece wasn’t so out of place in a city full of other “art-rections”.


If the world ever needed an enema, it could be inserted at Parliament Dr, Canberra ACT 2600. If, on the other hand, the world needed a giant butt-plug, then apparently the city of love, is the place to stick it.

The city of Paris commissioned controversial American artist Paul McCarthy to erect some public art in the form of a Christmas tree sculpture to commemorate the opening of a confectionary outlet called The Chocolate Factory. Unfortunately, this piece of public art resembles the type of item you may find on the shelf in one of those “up-the-stairs-mind-your-head” establishments on Oxford Street.

The irony in what the 69-year-old McCarthy has created should not be lost on anyone…


Chocolate Factory’s opening?…

“From even the greatest of horrors, irony is seldom absent”.

Little did we know that H.P Lovecraft’s words would echo so “penetratingly”.

McCarthy’s newest piece of public art, dubbed Tree by its creator and Le Plug by everyone else, does look strangely out of place in Place Vendôme, where it’s nestled tightly amongst the Corinthian Pilasters and old buildings. Some of these buildings were once home to people like Coco Chanel and Frederic Chopin. Can you imagine if they were still around today? Their faces as they got up in the morning and opened their bedroom windows to let the aroma of freshly baked croissant float through their room on the Parisian breeze, only to look down and see a giant butt-plug in the square below. “Sacre bleu!

Georgia O’Keeffe once said “filling a space in a beautiful way, that’s what art means to me”. Apparently, that’s what it means to McCarthy too, except he took the quote far too literally. McCarthy’s previous works include the quaintly titled Butt-Plug Gnome; a statue of Santa Claus holding a…you guessed it! And Complex Shit; an inflatable mound of faeces installed on the grounds of the Paul Klee Centre in Bern, where it was interestingly lifted from the ground by a strong wind and blown into the window of a children’s home (and thereby obeying the comedy laws of Benny Hill-ludicrosity 101). It seems the line between art and fraternity hazing is blurred. Or has art just become a massive pain in the arse?

McCarthy has defended his latest piece by describing the marital aid as “abstract” art (“extract” would also be acceptable), but this hasn’t stopped vandals from deflating the piece only a few days after its unveiling.

Now that the giant sex toy is out of the picture, we can go back to enjoying those more aesthetically pleasing French public art erections like the Vendôme Column or the Colonne de Juillet.

Although, I don’t think I’ll be able to look at the Eiffel Tower again without pondering the painful possibilities, as well as wondering… where would le batteries go?

public art


Tom Jacobs

Tom is a writer and budding comedian who, when not writing and 'comedying', enjoys collecting old blues records and doing terrible things to his cat with a fork.

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  1. Rose Cooper said:

    Which brings up the age old question: What is the different between Art and Pornography? A: Pornography is Always in Focus.

  2. Rainer the cabbie said:

    Hmmm…..if that’s an enema, I would prefer it to the one they put up at the Louvre.

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