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Caught in the Crossfire

Je suis Banned in France

Just prior to Christmas of 2014, I received a message online from a woman named Sarah Clayton, who asked me if I had written a book that a friend of hers had published. Dumbfounded by her question out of the blue, I told Ms. Clayton that I had only written two unfinished books, so perhaps she had me confused with someone else named Frederick Abrams. She then claimed it was published in 1988 and asked if I had ever heard of someone named Christopher Gustave. The name sounded vaguely familiar but still no bell rang in my head. “Maybe you are the wrong person,” she replied.

“What’s the name of the book?” I asked.

“Banned in France – The Judgment of Paris,” she wrote.

“Oh, my God! That’s mine!” I exclaimed.

The reason that her inquiry had thrown me off is that it was an experimental art book, which I had completely forgotten about. It is also a documentation of events concerning the fate of what I believe to this day to be my greatest artwork, entitled, “Les routes de la Grande Odalisque (The Large Brain)” which resulted, not only in its suppression, but of the book itself. Far from conventionally constructed, its pages are held together with brass screws and bolts, inside of a corrugated cardboard cover. Only 200 copies of “Banned in France” had been assembled by hand.

Oddly enough, on the very day that Ms. Clayton found me in cyberspace, I was writing a brief summary of what happened in 1987, that sent me on a quarter of a century-long road-less-traveled, that by no means was in my anticipated life plan.

Ms. Clayton then explained that she found the book by accident and that her husband had bought a copy of it for her. She said she had taken on the chore of archiving and publishing reprints of a series of handmade books by Gustave, who had died less than one year earlier.

Events yet to occur trivialized what I had already felt compelled to reveal to over 250 attendees of a beachy Southern California art opening.

The copies were offered for sale at an exhibition by the same name that was held in 1988 at a private space by the beach in Venice, California. Over 200 people attended the opening reception. Nevertheless, extensive efforts to draw the attention of local media to the show were completely ignored. An art critic for the Los Angeles Times told me that they did not cover exhibitions that did not take place in “official art galleries.” Her lack of journalistic curiosity stunned me, for two years earlier the newspaper published an article that not only focused on the artwork that was the subject of “Banned in France,” but resulted in presentations of it to Paris’ most influential art galleries, museums and the French Ministry of Culture.

In fact, “Banned in France” documents but the prelude to the unimaginable outcome of what was my intended gesture of love to France, the luminous artwork’s composition being an enormous floor-to-ceiling stained glass composition of a map of the Paris Metro. Events yet to occur trivialized what I had already felt compelled to reveal to over 250 attendees of a beachy Southern California art opening. In hindsight, I pondered, what must I do to make this exhibition newsworthy to the haughty local mainstream media? A wild fantasy entered my head of assembling the huge, delicate, free-standing stained glass artwork, depicting Paris’ subway system, late at night in the middle lane of the 405 freeway. What statement of protest this might have been, since the 405 is the busiest interstate highway in the nation in the largest city of the Western Hemisphere at that time to have no subway system. 

While I fought in vain back then to gain any media attention on my home turf, the oddly unanticipated reintroduction of this book into my life 28 years later occurred just days after the January 2015 terrorist attack in Paris on Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly newspaper and a Jewish grocery store. For me personally, a disturbing link between the two was undeniable. For while suppression of art can in no way be equated with the tragedy of hateful murder, as I was to painfully learn in Paris in the late 1980s, the horrific attack on free expression, and on Jews, has historical precedent that remained deeply ingrained in French culture. What my story in Paris revealed, is an unbelievable cowardice of the powers-that-be concerning artistic expression that unintendedly offended nationalistic pride. Making this inconceivably worse is the fact that this cultural soap opera was played out in the name of the 200th anniversary in 1989 of the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Whereas the Charlie Hebdo cartoons unabashedly offended Muslim extremists, public artworks assigned to artists of foreign origins for the 1989 celebration were interpreted by the French populace, military, journalists and intelligentsia in perversely extreme ways, that transformed them into an embarrassment to the glory of France. 

The Atlantic magazine published an article on January 10, 2015 by Jeffrey Goldberg, which directly made this critically historical link between 2015 and 1789, as fears arose of a mass exodus of Jews from France:

It is not merely the physical safety of France’s Jews that is imperiled by anti-Semitic violence, the country’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, argues, but the very idea of the French Republic itself.

“The choice was made by the French Revolution in 1789 to recognize Jews as full citizens,” Valls told me. “To understand what the idea of the republic is about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews. It is a founding principle.”

If 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”

The bloody attack of a kosher market in Paris did not deter the Prime Minister from recognizing the very fragile, yet vital history of the Jewish population in France, that prior to the tragic incident in 2015 had nothing to do with Islamic terrorists. What this exposes in the larger sense is the delicate nature of cross cultural sensitivities that have historically been, and remain to this day, a battle of civilization. How this ties in to the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution and Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1989 is the untold story that I am revealing here.


It was quite an eye-opener to discover that I was not the only artist of foreign origins, let alone of Jewish heritage, to face the guillotine of artistic suppression, when France was in the throes of preparing for the big party of 1989 by commissioning public artworks coined, “Des Grands Travaux et du Bicentenaire” (The Great Works of the Bicentennial). Among them were Scottish artist, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Chinese-American architect, I. M. Pei. Another was a French sculptor, Louis Mitelberg, who was born in Poland to a Jewish family. Affectionately known as “Tim,” Mitelberg was also widely recognized as a political cartoonist. I met his wife, Zuka, a painter, who was born in Los Angeles, when she visited her native home in 1989. My lasting memory of her is in the form of a chilling message she left on my phone answering machine prior to returning to Paris following an exhibition of her paintings in LA:

“Forget the French,” she said. “You will only hurt yourself.”

There is no way of reading the terminology on the mental map that I created without asking questions about what one believes one is reading.


During the year of 1987, when I lived in Paris, I was introduced to the assistant to the French Minister of Culture, Jean Michel Foray, who proposed that I execute a public artwork after I had personally presented to him documentation of “Les Routes de la Grande Odalisque (The Large Brain).” [spacer height=”20px”]

During my first visit to Paris eight years earlier, a handheld Paris Metro that I picked up at a metro station reminded me of something other than a metro system. I found its shape to be suggestive of a schematically diagrammed brain. The points where metro lines crossed became symbolic of synaptic junctions. Upon returning home to LA, I devoted an entire year to the creation of this massive leaded glass artwork. At the time of its execution, a Parisian friend visited me in LA, Stephane Dwernicki, saw the glass artwork in the process of being constructed and he jokingly said:

“Why don’t you change the real names of the map and add new ones, for example, “Big Mac?”

After some contemplation, I decided to take up my friend’s advice by applying new names to the glass with adhesive vinyl lettering, a process that continued for two years after the glasswork was completed and a modular wood frame was constructed. However, it was not my intent to satirically exploit such obvious silly clichés concerning the imposition of American globalist pop commercialism on the great city of Paris. Instead, I embarked on playing a mind game of juxtaposing unusual words, words of my own invention, unanticipated word associations and definitions involving a broad spectrum of both historical and contemporary topics.

Click here for handwritten notes from 1983 mapping out the chosen terminology

Applying new words to the map became an intuitive free association word game as my eyes traveled along any particular line or region of the map, or when changing direction where two lines intersected. Ultimately it became a game of fate, destiny. As an example, should one’s eyes travel upward from the lowest point (Diplomatic Trust), they will arrive at the highest (Enlightenment Forthcoming).

This free association word game reminded me of board games that were played during childhood, such as Chutes and Ladders, a modern derivative of an ancient board game called Snakes and Ladders. According to an article, “The Timelessness of Snakes and Ladders,” from the website, Re-form:

The game is a potent teaching tool whose simple design has been used for centuries, arguably even millennia, as a way to embody and reinforce religious teachings and cultural values. Along the way it’s evolved and adapted to incorporate the themes and aesthetics relevant to each culture that played it, from ancient India to Victorian England, to the US and far beyond.

Surviving game boards suggest Snakes and Ladders emerged somewhere in Northern India or Nepal. In its earliest identifiable form it was called Gyan Chauper, though other versions have gone by names like Leela, Moksha Patamu, and Paramapada Sopanapata. These titles translate roughly to terms like Game of Self-Knowledge, Ladder to Salvation, or Steps to the Highest Place, showing the weight of the content it was meant to convey.

Bookending each ladder and snake is a moral lesson…in playing, people are also made to experience the course of fate, and the consequences attached to virtues and vices.

However, there was another method behind the madness of my selection of terminology: to provoke in the viewer alternative intuitive right brain as opposed to linear left brain ways of perceiving words and information received in daily life. Stream of conscious thinking, which I engage in habitually in the act of creative expression, is not based on rules, but rather on following gut instinct. So much of what we see, hear and read is accepted without being questioned. There is no way of reading the terminology on the mental map that I created without asking questions about what one believes one is reading. 

Accompanying the artwork is a glossary of definitions entitled, “Trains of Thought” which includes thematic cross-referenced categorizations and lists of the sources of the names chosen.  Some are names of race horses while others are unusual abbreviations that I found on what had become popular personalized California auto license plates, such as:PRPLHAZ, FACELFT and 99NOSES.

See the entire mapping of the terminology by clicking here

Click here for photos of the development of the artwork including details of terminology

Trains of Thought in exhibition at the USC Atelier, Santa Monica, 1986

Click here for the glossary of terms, “Trains of Thought”

Click here for a cross-referenced categorization of the terms

I had completely miscalculated what sort of reaction I would encounter in Paris, where presiding French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, stoked nationalistic pride by making a big ruckus over what he termed, American Cultural Imperialism.

Most of the terms are in English; though I intentionally played with spellings and definitions, and invented a few terms of my own. If, as the French have claimed that the “Je suis Charlie Hebdo” demonstrations transformed Paris into the capital city of the world, way back in the early 1980s, in homage to a great city, I wished to characterize the Paris Metro map as a universal iconographic construct of both the personal and social unconscious. In creating a game of words showcasing human choice, Marcel Duchamp’s famous artwork, “The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even, (The Large Glass),” was my primary source of inspiration. Whatever rules others established concerning what was considered to be relevant or fashionable art, Duchamp rebelled against it. He never followed the crowd, never succumbed to following traditional attitudes, fashionable styles or current manifestos. While others played at the time with ways of seeing, Duchamp challenged the viewers of his work with other ways of thinking, as well as seeing. He chose to paint on a “canvas” made of glass to create a work that he called “anti-retinal” and utilized common found objects to make others question the meaning and purpose of art itself.  

While working in a library, Duchamp took notes from which “The Large Glass” was formulated, whereas I spent time in libraries randomly searching through books in search of far from commonplace terminology, often about the function of the brain.

In so doing, I had no comprehension or anticipation of what sort of reaction I would encounter in Paris. As I was to discover, no matter that my goal was to provoke viewers of the work to interpret unusual terminology with a more mind, I could not penetrate entrenched perceptions that had already been formulated. My entry into the French cultural milieu was like a fragile glass window confronting a brick wall that said “Merci, Monsieur,” as a meaningless polite reaction. 

At that very time, presiding French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, stoked nationalistic pride by making a big ruckus over what he termed, “American Cultural Imperialism.” Subsequently, in the name of preserving cultural heritage, he attempted to ban the further commercial usage of English-language in Paris, which was infiltrating the city in the form of fast food joints serving  “Le hamburger,” the very sort of trite symbol of American-style globalization that my French friend had suggested I satirize.

How odd that not long after I would be invited for cultural exchange purposes to Poland, as the country was being liberated from totalitarian dictatorship, at which time one of my sponsors reflected, “The golden arches is better than the red star.”

In fact, I agreed with Lang with respect to the “le hamburger” representing globalization’s homogenization of humanity. In fact, this was precisely an intended point of the artistic statement I was making!

In hindsight, perhaps I should have taken my friend, Stephane’s advice and plastered the map of the Paris Metro with universally recognized symbols of pop culture iconography, like James Dean, Big Mac and Diet Pepsi, which would have been easy. One online article, “Here’s Looking at You, USA!” portrays an obvious hypocrisy in Lang’s proclamation:

Back in 1982, the incumbent French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, gave an incendiary speech in which he blasted the United States’ “cultural imperialism,” and advised that other cultures enact protectionist measures against the way the American cultural/consumer juggernaut “grabs consciousness, ways of thinking, ways of living”…but what do the French now celebrate on Saturday and Sunday?–‘le weekend,’ when they eat “le hot dog.” McDonalds, Starbucks, and KFCs are ubiquitous, and American apparel stores dot the Champs Elysses like chocolate sprinkles on a cappuccino. (Click here for the entire article)

Having already rejected Stephane’s suggestion that I intentionally exploit this bastardization of French culture and language in the name of art, there was nothing at all so blatantly commercial reflected in the terminology I chose, for example:

Folie à deux, Nuée ardent, Zavist, Abulia, Obelia, 7AND7IS.


As was to become my own fate, there seemed to be something else at play that was behind the suppression of works of art to be conceived by individuals of foreign origins in the name of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution and Declaration of the Rights of Man. In each instance, a justification was required in the form of trumped-up excuses related to historical embarrassments and sensitivities. 

Louis Mitelberg’s tale of being commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture to execute a public statue is a perfect case in point. Mitelberg, a Polish Jew, moved to Paris in 1938 to study architecture, which likely saved his life from the genocide taking place in his homeland. Half of a century later, he chose to make a statue of Alfred Dreyfus. On June 9, 1988, the Los Angeles Times published a story, “Paris Finally Finds a Place for Dreyfus Statue.” The article described troubles that ensued in placing the statue, making it clear that what is known as The Dreyfus Affair of a century earlier, remains a deep wound in French history: 

The conservative strait-laced Dreyfus, an innocent victim, suddenly found himself a symbol of hate and injustice in 1894 when the army high command falsely accused and convicted him of passing military secrets to the Germans. The 35-year-old officer, was stripped of his rank and sent to a prison on Devil’s Island in French Guiana.

Originally the statue was to stand on the grounds of the Ecole Militaire, the military academy where Dreyfus was stripped of his rank after the court-martial. But the army rejected the monument. For some officers, the statue would have been too much of a reminder of old military shame. (click here for the entire story)

The Dreyfus Affair, which was perpetuated by the press, divided French society. The fact that Dreyfus was Jewish was at the heart of the controversy.


Culturally loaded symbols ascribed to artworks were interpreted in extreme ways which suggested that they were somehow a danger to the glory of France.

Unanticipated political complications that kept Mitleberg’s statue in storage for two years became linked to Finlay and myself when I had no idea who either of these two artists were. In all of our cases, offers made by the Ministry of Culture to execute public artworks were halted, not only by negative reactions provoked by historical sensitivities, but by a change of power inside of the French government. The LA Times article about the Dreyfus Statue conveyed that its placement was one such example:

When the conservative government of Premier Jacques Chirac came to power in 1986, it moved so gingerly and hesitantly in searching for another site that it became paralyzed. No site was found until President Mitterrand was reelected…and appointed a Socialist government to take the place of the Chirac government.

In other words, the grounds for the right wing’s suppression of public artworks was all a political ruse that played on the worst instincts of historical French sensitivities. This followed an election that resulted in what the French call, “Cohabition,” something akin to the current government gridlock in the U.S., whereby the president represents one political party and the Congress the other. Prior to this election, at the time that the 1989 Bicentennial celebrations were being planned, Socialist President, François Mitterrand, was presiding over a majority Socialist Parliament. It was then that Finlay, Mitelberg and I. M. Pei were commissioned to create major permanent artworks. At that time, Culture Minister Lang’s assistant named, Jean-Michel Foray, proposed to me such a commission as well. Ian Hamilton Finlay’s nightmare oddly became inexorably intertwined with my own, when I sent a letter to Culture Minister Jack Lang, at the time of the 1988 exhibition at Venice Beach.

My fate was to become inadvertently immersed in the cultural politics of “cohabitation” as Mitterrand’s power became reduced to being but a figurehead overseeing foreign affairs. Simultaneously, Culture Minister Jack Lang lost his position and a new right-wing minister, François Léotard, was appointed while Paris’ right-wing mayor, Jacques Chirac, became the French Prime Minister. As soon as he did, he and Léotard put a halt to the public art projects of “Le grand travaux du Bicentenaire,” which had been chosen by the Socialist administration.

Lang’s assistant, Monsieur Foray, informed me that should the socialist party again be reinstated in an election two years later, it would then perhaps be possible to execute the proposed commission.

Hope was thus renewed when the following election did indeed return the Socialists to power. Back in LA I came across the article in the Los Angeles Times about the completion of the Dreyfus Statue and then the month after an article appeared in The New York Times about the return of Jack Lang as Culture Minister. The article published on July 23, 1988, “Creatively Engagé, France’s Jack Lang Plots a Cultural Future,” stated:

Although he has been back in office for a relatively short time, Mr. Lang has begun to take action to reverse some of the initiatives – or what he sees as lack of initiative – of the last two years. One of his first steps was to install in the Tuileries Gardens near the Louvre a statue of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus that he had commissioned in his earlier term and that had been kept in a storehouse during Mr. Léotard’s time in office… 

“I wanted to repair an injustice,” M. Lang said. “The right of an artist is to be seen by the people, and Tim was refused this right.” (Click here for the entire article)

The next day I wrote a letter directly to Mr. Lang about my dilemma. In fact, the truth behind the suppression of my work went far deeper than the changes of regimes and the revolving chair of the office of the French Culture Ministry. There had been another unspeakable event resulting from showing my artwork to a woman representing a prominent Paris art museum, who pretended to have the curative authority to decide on exhibitions. While she made no commitment, I was so convinced of her interest in my work that I returned from New York two months later only to discover that the concept I had presented to her was almost identical to what was painted directly onto an interior wall of the museum for its current exhibition. 

An embarrassment of such magnitude was swept under the carpet throughout the Paris cultural milieu. Journalists turned their backs as did one of the top art critics from New York, who I was personally introduced to in Paris. When I wrote a letter directly to the museum’s director, she scoffed it off by informing me that the woman to whom I had presented my artwork had recently died. Thus, it had been my last hope that in a roundabout way the commission offered to me by the Ministry of Culture would result in killing two birds with one stone, making it possible to circumvent the incredibly risky task of resorting to arduous legal proceedings against a major Parisian institution. After speaking at length with a prominent Parisian lawyer, a young art curator told me in no uncertain terms that if I chose this route, I would be “Banned in France.”

As this had already seemed to be a foregone conclusion, back home in L.A., with nothing left to lose, I chose to make a bold statement at an art exhibition held far away by the Venice Beach, with documentary quotations posted on the gallery walls. I set it up as a court case, the left wall being “The Case,” the center wall “The Trial” and the right wall “The Judgment.” The verdict, nonetheless, was swept away by the nearby ocean waves, the whole matter treated as an insignificant triviality on my native home turf.

As despairing as everything then seemed, this was nothing compared to what was yet to come…

Inexplicably, a response to my letter to Jack Lang was received from his latest assistant, a man named Dominique Bozo, who sent me a brief cover letter along with a copy of a very long letter he had written to Ian Hamilton Finlay and his then wife. Bozo’s cover letter to me explained that his letter to the Finlays represented France’s official word on the matter. Having never heard of Finlay, my initial reaction was that this must have been erroneously sent to me. However, when I read the entirety of Bozo’s letter to the Finlays, I was completely dumbfounded.

Click here for Dominique Bozo’s letter with an English translation

His name had been slandered by the French mass media in conjunction with an evil rumor which spread throughout the Parisian artistic intelligentsia branding him as a Neo-Nazi.

Finlay had been commissioned by the Ministry of Culture to create a major public artwork at the Gardens of Versailles, the setting where Mitterrand was to give his keynote inauguration speech commencing the year-long celebration of the Bicentennial of the French Revolution and Declaration of the Rights of Man. Finlay’s artwork consisted of the creation of elaborate outdoor gardens laden with provocative symbolism. Two parallels instantly became clear: that we both played with words and iconographic symbols as elements of visual art and that this was to have been the greatest moment in our lives as artists.

Finlay suffered from agoraphobia and never left his home in Edinburgh, where he lived with his most renowned garden known as “Little Sparta.” The French Ministry voluntarily came to him to offer this tremendous opportunity; however, this meant that Finlay had to realize the enormous project from his home with the assistance of people in Paris whom he never personally met. In his absence, Bozo informed Finlay by virtue of the letter that was also sent to me, that his name had been smeared by the French mass media in conjunction with an evil rumor that had spread throughout the Parisian artistic intelligentsia branding him as a neo-Nazi.  The incredible justification given for this was that he had made use of the letters “SS” in his proposed garden. The Ministry, Bozo claimed, had done all it possibly could to defend Finlay from these assaults on his name. However, he wrote:

I’m absolutely convinced that the commission in such a situation would have led to an intensification of the attacks [against you] which would have gained virulence. The disinformation on which they are based has gone as far as affecting certain personages of high moral and intellectual authority and they risk to infest the whole of the initiatives linked to the 1989 celebration.

In utter shock, I wrote back to Bozo asking him if he could explain to me on what grounds he had chosen to send me this letter as an official position of the Ministry pertaining to my particular case. What, I wanted to know, had this to do with me, aside from the minor detail, were it not obvious from my surname, that my family heritage just so happened to be Jewish and that my ancestors had escaped from the horrors of persecution in Eastern Europe early in the 20th century.

No response came.

I thus pondered what the reaction might have been had I by coincidence chosen “Bozo” as a name for a metro stop of my stained glass map of the Paris underground. It might just as easily have been interpreted depending on cultural reference to the name of Bozo the Clown, who became well known in the U.S. following the advent of television in the early 1960s. This Bozo, as I was to learn later on, was recognized as an authority on the works of Pablo Picasso. For that matter, “SS,” or the “Protection Squadron” of the Nazi Party might just as blandly have been interpreted as “Social Security” in the United States.

In 1943 I would have been accused of being pro-Jewish; or in the McCarthy era of being pro-communist. The mechanism is always the same, the vocabulary changes…

With nowhere left to turn, I decided to write a letter directly to Ian Hamilton Finlay in Edinburgh. Unlike Bozo, he quickly responded with a most unanticipated cathartic letter. In it he wrote:

The fact is, that what has happened to me is unspeakable, and part of the pain resides in that aspect: it is simply impossible to explain to others the things that have happened and the damage done. Those who know me tend to laugh at the accusations made against me; since they are unable to take them seriously (regarding them as absurd to the point of being hilarious) they are (understandably) unable to grasp that other people do take them seriously, with awful consequences for my life and my work. Your sentence, ‘I have already endured damage beyond calculation’ flied straight to my heart.

It is extraordinary, even by French standards, that Bozo sent you the letter which was written to me. I can only assume that you are intended to understand that your commission was cancelled because the non-cancellation would have resulted in controversy which would have affected the celebrations in Paris…

Yes: I have been accused of anti-Semitism and Nazism. Those who know the absurdity of the accusations usually explain them by saying that the French remain very guilty about their behavior during the War. This seems to me to be far too kind of an explanation. In my understanding the position is absolutely straightforward: the particular accusations are made because it is known that those are the ones which will be most deadly and damaging; in 1943 I would have been accused of being pro-Jewish; or in the McCarthy era of being pro-communist. The mechanism is always the same, the vocabulary changes….

Certainly, after my accepting that commission from the French government, my life can never be the same again.”

Click here for the scanned first page of Finlay’s original letter.

Finlay, who had served in the British army during WWII, coined the episode, “Moral Madness.” which became the title of my first unfinished book. For the next five years, Finlay and I continued corresponding as the malicious attacks were to keep following him in the UK, while I ended up living in Barcelona trying, as Mitelberg’s wife has forewarned me, to forget the French.

Grasping at straws, I had no recourse left whatsoever when I learned that Finlay spent thousands of pounds on French lawyers and won in Paris, his reward being one token Franc (back then the equivalent of a fraction of one Euro) while the damages continued to haunt his life.

The only detailed accounting of the Finlay Affair that I have found online was written in 1992 when the new European Union was born:

1992 approaches with the promise – and threat – of “European integration”. The emphasis is on economic readiness. But are we prepared for deeper adjustments? In terms of human rights, for example, will the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” be replaced by “prove your innocence”? (Click here for the entire article)


Whereas Mitelberg’s Dreyfus Statue was finally placed but not where originally planned, I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid at The Louvre would have never been completed had President Mitterrand not waved his monarchial wand shortly after the end of cohabitation. From the September 1989 edition of Vanity Fair magazine:

Although the Louvre seemed initially like yet another of the prestige plums he has been so adept at pulling out through the years, it turned into a nightmare of undreamed-of-proportions. The French right wing waged a nasty campaign to block the socialist president’s scheme to alter this central symbol of French culture [The Louvre], and I. M. Pei got caught in the cross fire. Friends and colleagues of the architect concur that this was the worst experience in Pei’s professional life…Mitterrand’s amazing political comeback in the 1988 election, finally turned the tide in the Battle for the Pyramid.

Finlay, who died in 2006, was surely rolling in his grave two years later, when New York artist, Jeff Koons, was given a retrospective exhibition at the Versailles Gardens two decades after Finlay’s Versailles garden project for the French Bicentennial had been censored. As for Jack Lang’s assault on “American Cultural Imperialism,” no living artist’s work better reflects the vacuousness of pop culture than Koons, who has transformed chrome plated bunny rabbit and doggie balloons into sculptural iconography. More on this can be found on the page, “Trapped in a Bunny Rabbit Balloon Cul-de-Sac – Why I Abandoned the Western Art World.

At that point the stranger than fiction saga continued when it was shipped to Barcelona by a cultural foundation that planned to exhibit my artwork during the 1992 Olympics.


As for “Les Routes de La Grande Odalisque (The Large Brain),” the only recognition ever received in Paris came in the form of photographs of the artwork which were published in 1988, in a book by the City of Paris, “MÉTROPOLITAIN – L’autre dimension de la ville (The Other Dimension of the City).” The photos were included in a section of the book documenting an exhibition held that same year about the history of the Paris Metro that was sponsored by The Paris Historical Library. However, no request came to exhibit the actual artwork in Paris.

At that point, the stranger than fiction saga continued when it was shipped to Barcelona by a cultural foundation that planned to exhibit my artwork during the 1992 Olympics. As I awaited in Barcelona for its arrival, the glasswork was to be expertly packed by a company in Los Angeles, which often shipped antiques abroad, when the owner suddenly died of a heart attack. Unbeknownst to me, his brother sent my work by sea without proper import papers or the careful packing of the delicate glass artwork I had paid for, only to be delivered to the wrong address of a receiving shipping company in Barcelona. For over one month it was lost at sea and arrived with extensive damages. Adding insult to injury, the insurance I had paid for did not cover the repairs because the deceased owner’s brother had falsely described the contents as “theatrical costumes.”

I took these photos as Customs officials inspected the artwork:

Arrival in Barcelona and Customs Inspection, 1992

As if the new European Union had also become the new Fortress Europe, the next month entailed a bureaucratic war with customs officials before I was able to retrieve my artwork. Then the director of the foundation who had paid to ship the monumental glass artwork to Barcelona informed me that severe budget cuts caused by overspending for the 1992 Olympics forced him to cancel the exhibition. Eventually, I repaired the artwork and exhibited it in a private local art gallery along with the flimsy wooden crates that it was shipped in overseas plus the documentary photos above of its inspection upon arrival in Barcelona. The last time it was seen was in 2004, in another private gallery, belonging to Catalan architect, Antoni Poch. 

Speaking at a reception at the art gallery of Catalan architect, Toni Poch, November 2014

During those years, I had been honing my artistic skills with the amazing new tools of high technology and then embarked on an even greater adventure restoring a medieval tower in Poland, which is the main theme of my story on this site:

From the Red Star to the Golden Arches

During all of this time, the glassworks, “Les Routes de la Grande Odalisque (The Large Brain)” and “The Routes of the Grand Illusion (Shooting Star Triptik)” have remained in storage, in Barcelona.

Despite this profoundly embittering story, this has in no way stopped me from continuing to create new artistic expressions derived from the same inspirations. A number of these examples can be recognized on this site beginning on the homepage. The mandala-like forms, the 3D renderings of glass pyramid roofs of Abrams’ Tower and Abrams’ Tower West, other digitally created artworks and some of the music that I have composed, recorded and performed are all expressions of my unrequited love for the great city of Paris.