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Star Wars: The Farce Awakens

28 October 2015

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories. Follow @Rakewelltweets.

News that a city in Ukraine has encased a statue of Vladimir Lenin inside an effigy of Star Wars villain Darth Vader has brought much mirth to sci-fi geeks across the globe. In accordance with the country’s de-communisation laws, the statue of the communist demagogue was set for demolition until local factory workers protested, leading sculptor Alexander Milov to dream up his novel solution. The symbolism may be open ended, but the Dark Lord’s likeness (which emits wi-fi signals from its helmet) seems to have gone down rather well.

As for its artistic merit, the Rake can think of one likely admirer. Step forward arts critic and academic Camille Paglia, who once described the finale of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith as having ‘more inherent artistic value, emotional power and global impact’ than any work by Matthew Barney, Rachel Whiteread or Peter Doig. Alas, Vader’s popularity does not stretch to Paris, where memorabilia associated with the wheezing baddie has been exhibited in the Louvre’s Petite Galerie alongside a 3rd-century BC sculpture of Hercules. The exhibition, entitled ‘Founding Myths’, was conceived as an educational experience for school groups, and its thesis puts Darth Vader in the same lineage as mythological and biblical characters. However, its populist retelling of heroism has not gone down well with traditionalists.

Writing in the Tribune de l’Art, journalist and art historian Didier Rykner complained that ‘[Darth Vader] does not have a place at the Louvre, not only because he represents contemporary culture, but also because he belongs to cinema, not the plastic arts.’ He then offered some advice to young visitors and their teachers: ‘Go to the Louvre, but see the real galleries. Much better that than this ersatz museum experience.’

Not that Rykner’s Vader-bashing tirade stemmed from pop culture prejudice: ‘it must be added that we have absolutely nothing against Star Wars… it is uncontestably a major work of the late 20th century and of the beginning of the 21st, of which we have watched every instalment at the cinema, and will certainly see the next one when it comes out on the 16th of December.’

Whether Rykner’s position will shift once he has taken in the undoubtable delights of Star Wars: The Force Awakens remains to be seen. Until then, may the farce be with you.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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