Art and Chocolate: Keeping Things Interesting in Paris

It's all about chocolate, right?
The takeaway message from this weekend is that Paris can still surprise me. That’s the happy part of this story. The other part is that it took chocolate butt plugs to get to that point.

I should probably explain…

Paul McCarthy, the American artist who made headlines by inflating a giant butt plug-shaped “Tree” in Paris’s Place Vendôme, has an exhibit at the Monnaie de Paris. This gallery, the historic mint for French money, reopened this past weekend, October 25th, as a home to contemporary art exhibits. The first show – McCarthy’s deliciously titled “Chocolate Factory.”

Since the exhibit was free this weekend, of course I went, and I absolutely loved it. I am not ashamed.

Known for being a bit of a rabble rouser, McCarthy’s show continued to deliver. In the main gallery, women in blond wigs were creating the chocolates in an atelier. Innocent enough. Further on, 9 rooms awaited me, full of shelves storing chocolate butt plugs and gnome figurines (or Santas?). A video of the artist scribbling in marker and mumbling things like “Are you the artist” and “Stupid American” played in each room, while these phrases were written on the wall alongside other obscenities.

The show clearly touched on provocation, the same that led to vandalism of his inflatable “Tree” at Place Vendôme last week. No one present seemed too mad, fortunately.

The smell of chocolate won me over, but I would have gladly paid to watch Parisians gawking at hundreds of chocolate butt plugs (for sale in the gift shop, don't forget). It was a wacky and inappropriate experience that transported you away from the quotidian of Paris and into some weird, sweet, phallic, and undeniably kooky world.
On sale at the gift shop...

Those looking for the meaning it might be disappointed. I gave up right away once I realized I wasn’t going to “understand” it. If nothing else, I saw it as a love affair with chocolate and how we all secretly want to consume it however we can. Some of us – er, I mean, some people – like chocolate just that much, right? No? Maybe?

In any case, those looking for something fun to walk through, to experience, and to take at face value might appreciate McCarthy’s show.

Is Paris a boring place? No, but like any city that you live in for years, the glitter of the monuments, museums, and pastries wears off and it becomes harder to find bits of the city that make you smile for no reason. Normalcy takes hold. For me, I’m halfway there. There’s a fine line between loving riding a bike by the Eiffel Tower in awe and plowing through tourists while practicing your English swear words.
Such angst.

The Monnaie de Paris and “Chocolate Factory,” however, have made the city fun again – something that the phalluses like Eiffel Tower, the Obelisk, the éclair, or baguettes haven’t been able to do for me in a while (and they think the plugs are so novel?).

For those who think it’s vulgar and disgusting, well, it is. But who doesn’t secretly love that sort of thing?

I’d rather have Paris embrace something edgy and exciting than be a dull city with a permanent stick up its butt. Chocolate is a way better alternative. Er, or so I hear.