Bouquet of Tulips

Jeff Koons Offers Cadeau Empoisonné to Paris

May 30, 2018By Heidi EllisonWhat's New Living in Paris
Paris "Bouquet of Tulips," by Jeff Koons © Jeff Koons 2016
“Bouquet of Tulips,” by Jeff Koons © Jeff Koons 2016

It’s no news that not everyone appreciates the glossy work of art-world superstar Jeff Koons. Now the artist has caused an uproar in Paris by offering as a gift to the city a monumental sculpture, “Bouquet of Tulips” (with 11 tulips held in an enormous fist), meant to be a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks of November 2015.

One slight problem was that he specified that this unsolicited gift be placed on the Place de Tokyo, between the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (MAM) and the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art museum, which would necessitate expensive shoring up of the esplanade to support the weight (35 tons) of the massive sculpture.

The news of the gift has sparked outrage and some support, and now the French government has weighed in, with Minister of Culture Françoise Nyssen saying the other day that the sculpture cannot be placed on the Palais de Tokyo site, part of which is controlled by the state and part by the city, starting the battle all over again.

Most amusingly, the philosopher Yves Michaud suggested in Le Monde that the city could resell the sculpture (which is not being paid for by Koons himself but by French and American financiers, who will then be able to deduct a large part of their donations) on Le Bon Coin, the most popular classified-ad website in France, where everything from a CD to a house can be bought or sold.

While some French intellectuals have compared Koons to Donald Trump and denounced the sculpture as a “symbol of industrial, spectacular and speculative art,” not all are opposed to the sculpture. The director of MAM, Fabrice Hergott, is himself a fan of the giant tulips.

So where will this cadeau empoisonné finally stand? No one knows yet. Another meeting between representatives of the city, the state and Koons is to be held in June. Meanwhile, the finished work sits in a studio belonging to Koons in Germany, awaiting a decision on its new home.

Note (Oct. 2018): The final decision has been made; “Bouquet of Tulips” will be set up in the garden of the Petit Palais.

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