In October 2014, Paul McCarthy’s work entered the public space of Paris. To accompany the Monnaie de Paris’s exhibition of his Chocolate Factory, a workshop producing chocolate trees and Santas, McCarthy installed the massive inflatable sculpture Tree at Place Vendôme. The sculpture’s shape was at once reminiscent of a sex toy, a Christmas tree, and a Hans Arp artwork. It caused a public outcry, the artist was attacked, and the work vandalized and ultimately removed. McCarthy’s intervention, however, became a symbol for artistic freedom.
A program was organized over the course of the Monnaie de Paris exhibition with preeminent collaborators, scholars, artists, curators, and writers, all engaged in the discussion of the possibilities of art after the assault on the artist. The participants confronted themselves with the sculpture while being given an open space to unveil their vision and research. Paul in Paris / Paris in Paul brings together these conversations, which reflect on McCarthy’s work and present a map of the city’s intellectual debates. From the fabrication of chocolate to the symbolism of coins, and from the creative process to the meaning of life, they reveal the vitality of independent thought and consider the impact of the artist’s work today.