French Arts Professionals Sign Op-Ed in Support of Jeff Koons’s Paris Memorial to Victims of Terrorist Attacks

A rendering of Jeff Koons’s Bouquet of Tulips.


French artists, museum officials, gallerists, and collectors have signed an op-ed in support of Jeff Koons’s Paris memorial to victims of terrorist attacks. The op-ed was published yesterday by the French newspaper Le Monde and is a retort to an open letter released last month condemning the work and its goals.

Signed by artists Loris Gréaud and Valerie Bélin, Palais de Tokyo cofounder Jérôme Sans, Galerie Art Concept director Olivier Antoine, Galerie Lelong president Jean Frémon, and Galerie Max Hetzler senior director Samia Saouma, the letter places the controversy surrounding the Koons monument within a history of debates over public art works throughout the French capital.

“Remember the polemics over the Centre Pompidou, the Louvre Pyramid or the columns of [Daniel] Buren, in keeping with the history of The Burghers of Calais or the Balzac of Rodin?” the op-ed reads.

Koons’s 34-foot-tall monument, Bouquet of Tulips, resembles a large hand holding a pastel-colored version of his 1994–2005 work Tulips. The sculpture was at one point expected to be installed this year between the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville and the Palais de Tokyo, and is currently being built in Germany out of aluminum, bronze, and steel. Initial plans did not include the cost of fabricating and installing the work; about $4.29 million is needed to have it finished and placed in its intended spot.

But the sculpture’s pathway to the public eye has been mired in politics. Bouquet of Tulips was first announced as a gift from Koons to the city of Paris that would memorialize the victims of the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in the French capital. The gift was spearheaded by the U.S. ambassador to France and the mayor of Paris, and it has since been the subject of scorn by local artists, critics, and officials. An open letter published in Libération denounced the work for practical and artistic reasons and demanded that the plan be abandoned.

“Paris, a city of good manners, hospitality and openness must accept this gesture,” the Le Monde op-ed reads. It concludes, “So, the parents of the victims, families, Parisians of all origins, tourists and lovers of liberty can say that these three Latin words that we learn in school aren’t those of a dead language. Everyone will know that fluctuat nec mergitur can also mean ‘give, receive, remember, live together, create the future: Paris.’ ”

The full op-ed is available in French on Le Monde’s website.

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