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Community / Public space

CityMetric Advent 13: Paris's controversial Christmas Tree had the last laugh

You may remember a report we ran back in October on a controversy that rocked Parisian politics to its very core: the erection of what looked a lot like a giant inflatable butt plug in Place Vendôme, a picturesque square in the city’s first arrondissement.

The artist, Paul McCarthy, claimed the piece was, in fact, a tree, but despite his protestations, the sculpture attracted heated criticism. As McCarthy was inflating the sculpture, a woman approached him, punched him three times in the face, and screamed that he wasn’t French and that the sculpture did not belong there (McCarthy is American).


On 24 October, eight days after it was installed, “Tree” was attacked by vandals and deflated. Disheartened, McCarthy decided against reinflating the sculpture.

Since then, though, details have emerged which imply that the spirit of the sculpture lives on.

First:  according to The Local, an English-language French news site, sales of butt plugs have gone through the roof since the fiasco. The publication interviewed a local salesman:

“We used to sell around 50 a month,” Richard Fhal, a sex toy wholesaler told The Local.

“Since the controversy (in October) we’ve moved more than a thousand,” said Fhal who supplies shops around the capital as well as his own retail website and chain of three stores.

Secondly, the artist has been amusing himself ever since the fiasco by selling hundreds of mini “Tree” sculptures made out of chocolate at his Chocolate Factory exhibition in the Hotel de Monnaie:

There are also these equally risqué Santas:

A “chocolate factory” at the centre of the exhibit produces the trees and Santas, and they’re then sold in the gift shop for 50 Euros a pop. It all sounds very festive indeed. 

Images: Getty. 
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