When we gaze into the looking glass, it’s not so much the reflective surface that inspires us, but the image that it casts.
The most regal mirror of exquisitely beveled lead glass, even when framed in exotic wood and finished with in rarest of gold leaf, has disaster potential when the reflection it projects is unappealing.
In my book The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details, I discuss ways to place mirrored surfaces so that they effectively cast an illusion of depth, add a sparkle of light-filled elegance or even repeat an attractive motif or pattern throughout a decorated space.
So when American artist Jeff Koons displayed his reflective objects of pop culture banality in the Palace of Versailles, we witness the living space of Louis XIV come to life in the shimmering surfaces of a pink overblown balloon dog in the Salon of Hercules, a giant red heart reigning over a royal staircase or a stainless steel moon rising within the confines of the glorious Hall of Mirrors.
At first glance, the pieces are humorous with their pop culture references and the odd juxtaposition within surroundings that was home to the French court. But then you focus on the ears of Bunny, a stainless steel sculpture in the Salon of Abundance, and notice the symmetrical reflections of windows, doors and paintings in it surface. Magically, this silly silver bunny has opened your eyes to a room from a whole new angle, one that architect Louis Le Brun may never have imagined.
As you enter the celebrated Hall of Mirrors with its 357 linked mirrors that represents the glory of France during the reign of The Sun King, a gigantic stainless steel moon rises over the far end, adding to the magnificence of the royal setting. You experience the hustle and bustle of a room that has been doubled in size decoratively as passersby are reflected in its metallic surface and camera flashes emulate a glittering candlelit flicker.
Look closely at the photo I took below and you can pretty much see the entire hall with its number of crystal chandeliers increased by two-fold and its light amplified by this looming metal lunar structure.
Koons succeeds in presenting Versailles with a brand new vision, bringing new life into a structure that has been a destination of taste, power, passion and invention for decades. It’s so easy to imagine that his creations were specifically designed for their temporary surroundings to accentuate the luxury of royal living.
Louis XIV would be proud.
In May 2009, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details.