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French Artists, Arts Professionals Pan Jeff Koons’s Proposed Paris Memorial to Victims of Terrorist Attacks

A rendering of Jeff Koons’s Bouquet of Tulips.

©JEFF KOONS/COURTESY NOIRMONTARTPRODUCTION

In an open letter published yesterday by the French newspaper Libération, a variety of artists and art professionals have called for the abandonment of plans to install a Jeff Koons sculpture in Paris, Bouquet of Tulips, as a memorial for victims of the November 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris.

Signed by the artists Christian Boltanski and Jean-Luc Moulène, film director Olivier Assayas, former French culture minister Frédéric Mitterand, and Montpellier Contemporain director Nicolas Bourriaud, the letter takes issue with the sculpture, both aesthetically and practically.

First announced in late 2016, the sculpture was donated by Koons to the city of Paris, as a gift from the United States to France, and spearheaded by the U.S. Ambassador to France and the mayor of Paris. (The cost of actually fabricating and installing the work was not part of the work, however, and it is estimated that some €3.5 million, or about $4.29 million, will need to be raised to cover its fabrication and installation.)

Current plans for the sculpture, which is being built in Germany right now, show what appears to be a large hand holding a pastel-colored version of the artist’s 1994–2005 work Tulips. Koons has said that the sculpture, which will be 34 feet tall and made of steel, bronze, and aluminum, is inspired by paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Pablo Picasso. It is to appear between the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville and the Palais de Tokyo, in front of a colonnade.

In the letter, the signees say that the work is symbolically inappropriate to its subject matter, that it will obstruct views of the Eiffel Tower, that erecting it would be financially irresponsible, that the pavement below couldn’t possibly support the 30-ton work, and that no open call was made for artists to submit plans for the monument. “We artists, political officials, professionals and amateurs of the French artistic scene, demand the abandonment of this initiative,” they write.

Even before the open letter, members of the French art world had voiced concerns about the project. Last year, the New York Times reported that there were technical and financial problems involved in installing the work, and some critics had never liked it much in the first place—Isabel Pasquier, a critic for France Inter, told the Times, “Whether you appreciate his art or not, Jeff Koons is a businessman, and we quickly understood that he was offering Paris to himself as a present.” At the time of that article, installation was expected for sometime this year.

ARTnews has reached out to Gagosian Gallery, which represents Koons, and Palais de Tokyo, for comment. The full open letter can be found in French, along with its list of signees, on Libération’s website.

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