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Jeff Koons, Bouquet of Tulips 2019 Paris
Jeff Koons, Bouquet of Tulips (2019)courtesy of Instagram/@moimarithe

Jeff Koons’ controversial ‘gift’ to Paris is unveiled

The artist’s tribute to the city’s 2015 terror attack hasn’t exactly received the warmest welcome, though

Jeff KoonsBouquet of Tulips (2019) has had a troubled genesis, to say the least. Intended as a tribute/memorial for the 2015 terror attacks in Paris – which centred around the Bataclan theatre and the Stade de France – the artwork drew criticism from artists, who published an open letter calling it “opportunistic, even cynical”, when it was proposed back in 2016. Now, though, it’s been unveiled (and tbh opinions are still… mixed).

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris who accepted the 41-foot metal sculpture – partly a nod to the Statue of Liberty – on behalf of the French people, called it “a magnificent symbol of freedom and friendship” when it was unveiled on Friday (October 4).

That was after some significant delays, related not just to the ambivalence about the project – funding was difficult to find, as Koons only agreed to donate the “idea”, not to pay for the materials etc. – but also to structural issues. 

Supports for the 67-ton piece would have compromised the nearby Palais de Tokyo’s basement galleries, not to mention the fact that placing it right outside a space dedicated to young emerging artists sends a slightly contradictory message.

In the end, the location for Bouquet of Tulips was changed – it’s now in the gardens of the Champs-Elysées – and funds were raised by private donors, with Koons pitching in $1 million when it went over budget. 80% of royalties from associated commercial products will reportedly go to families affected by the attacks, while 20% will go towards maintenance.

Obviously, that isn’t to say that everyone is satisfied now the artwork’s been realised. Life For Paris, a victims’ group, has complained that it was financed with tax-free donations. 

Meanwhile – besides the original open letter of complaint – a survey of readers, gallery owners, and collectors run by Le Quotidien de l’Art showed that 98% disapproved of the project. Not exactly a vote of confidence.