Elysée Palace to remove carpet designed by famed French artist facing charges of raping a minor

The Elysée is planning to remove a high profile carpet that adorns the French presidential palace, as designed by a famous Gallic artist who is charged with rape and sexual assault of a minor, according to the Minister of Culture.

Roseylne Bachelot’s announcement follows press revelations that Claude Lévêque, 67, whose work has been shown in galleries from New York to Paris, is under investigation. Lévêque was charged with repeated rape and sexual abuse in the 1980s, when the alleged victim was only 10 years old, strongly denying the allegations.

Soleil Noir (Black Sun), a wool rug with crystal chandeliers on a black background, adorns a first-floor office often used by President Emmanuel Macron.

It has been in the hands of the Mobilier National – a public body tasked with furnishing state buildings including the Élysée Palace – since 2007, but only entered after the election of Mr Macron in 2017 under one of his wife Brigitte’s supervised upholstery action in the Elysée.

Speaking to Public Sénat, Ms. Bachelot said: “I think that, given the symbolic aspect of the French Presidency, it will certainly be removed.”

“I am in favor of asking the question,” she continued, pointing out that Montreuil City Hall outside Paris was also removing works by the artist. Fontevraud Abbey in Maine-et-Loire also removed a Lévêque work from its permanent art collection during the rape investigation. The region’s president, Christelle Morançais, said the removal is a message that says “impunity is over”.

The decision follows a report in Le Monde newspaper earlier this month in which 51-year-old sculptor Laurent Faulon alleged that he was ill-treated by Mr Lévêque from 10 to 17 years old. Mr Faulon claimed that his two brothers were also molested by the artist in the 1980s.

It emerged that an investigation into the allegations has been ongoing since 2019.

While Mr Faulon said the events were likely to have exceeded the statute of limitations, he did so because other complaints might not and to alert authorities that “one or more minors are currently at great risk of being sexually abused if this is not irreparably already committed “.

Lévêque lawyer Emmanuel Pierrat issued a statement denouncing “serious allegations” and “defamatory and slanderous comments made by Laurent Foulon”.

In France, there has been feverish debates in recent years over whether artists who have been accused or convicted of rape or sexual assault should be separated from their work.

One of the most famous recent cases has been Roman Polanski, the Franco-Polish film director wanted in America in 1977 for the legal rape of a 13-year-old girl. He denies any wrongdoing. The decision to give him a César, a French Oscar, for best director last year sparked angry protests and parts of the audience to leave.

In recent weeks, France has been gripped by the publication of a book accusing one of the country’s most famous political scientists, Olivier Duhamel, of raping his stepson when he was 13. The alleged victim filed charges this week. Mr Duhamel declined to comment.

Ms. Bachelot said she was working on a “global plan” to combat sexual violence and sexism in the arts in France, saying, “It is hoped that people will speak more freely, but the pressure on victims is enormous.”

She said that “competition in the art world is fierce” and that “closeness created through artistic creation can lead to behavior that is at best inappropriate, at worst criminal”.

Since the MeToo scandal hit the world, the French music and cinema industry has now been required to follow strict guidelines to avoid abuse when it comes to losing state aid. Ms. Bachelot said she wanted to extend such rules to the world of publishing and the performing and visual arts.

“Anything that smells like negligence can no longer be tolerated,” she told AFP. “The word of the victims has been overlooked for too long.”

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