Paris finally finds a home for Jeff Koons’ giant tulips after purist claims they would lower the tone
Posted On July 16, 2020
Paris has finally found a place for a sculpture of a giant bunch of gaudy tulips offered by American artist Jeff Koons in the wake of the terror attacks but which purists complained would lower the tone of the City of Light.
Mr Koons had described Bouquet of Tulips, a 10-metre (34-foot) work of bronze, stainless steel and aluminium weighing 33 tons as a token of “remembrance to the victims of the terrible tragedies” that rocked the capital in 2014 and 2015, adding that he wanted “to give hope to the surviving family members”.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo initially said the multi-coloured sculpture would be installed for all to see opposite the Eiffel Tower and in front of the Palais de Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris near Trocadéro.
She hailed it as a "symbol of generosity and sharing", which shows "our capital’s ties with the United States are unbreakable”.
The Bouquet of Tulips features a hand holding the huge flowers in a gesture designed to ape the Statue of Liberty grasping her torch.
However, critics failed to see eye to eye with the mayor.
In an op-ed in Libération newspaper, some 23 figures from France’s art and culture world slammed the choice of a prime location – at the heart of the city’s modern and contemporary art offerings – adding that the museums had no symbolic connection with the Paris attacks.
While Mr Koons was a "brilliant and inventive" artist in the 1980s, he had since morphed into a symbol of "industrial", assembly-line art, they scoffed.
Françoise Nyssen, the culture minister, pledged to find a home for the sculpture at a location that was "popular, visible and shared by everyone”, while the mayor has defended her choice and has been backed by the French government.
"Can you just imagine the international controversy if the city had told the Americans ‘We don’t want your present?’," she said.
After months of dithering, on Friday, Christophe Girard, Paris’ deputy mayor in charge of culture announced that the sculpture would no doubt be installed in the municipal gardens of the of the Beaux-Arts museum in the Petit Palais, opposite the Grand Palais by the Champs-Elysées.
He said the position near the American Embassy was “a very strong symbol and a reaffirmation of our friendship with the American people”.
"We were split between various options… but Jeff Koons never changed his mind about wanting it in the centre of Paris, near where the attacks took place," he added.
Private foundations would pay for installation but as for its upkeep, Parisian taxpayers would foot the bill, he said.
Mr Koons was the subject of controversy of a different kind last month in Paris, where he was accused in court of plagiarising an iconic French clothing advertisement for one of his celebrated sculptures, Fait d’Hiver.
Advertising creative director Franck Davidovici sued Mr Koons, among the world’s most bankable living artists, for €300,000 (£270,000) for copyright infringement, saying he had produced what his lawyer called a “servile copy” of a famous advertising campaign he ran in 1985 for French clothing brand Naf-Naf.