Jeff Koons Inaugurates His Tulip Sculpture in Paris. Finally.

The colorful installation pays homage to the victims of terrorist attacks.


PARIS — They took three years to blossom, but Jeff Koons’s tulips are finally in full bloom.

At a ceremony in Paris on Friday, the American artist dedicated a new sculpture to friendship between France and the United States, and to the victims of recent terrorist attacks in the city and across the European country. The ceremony drew a three-year saga to a close, in which French cultural figures quarreled about the monument’s location and significance, and questioned Mr. Koons’s motives in creating it.


At the inauguration ceremony, Mr. Koons said, “The sculpture ‘Bouquet of Tulips’ was created as a symbol of remembrance, optimism and healing.”

Made of bronze, aluminum and stainless steel, “Bouquet of Tulips” is 41 feet tall. An outstretched hand holds 11 colorful tulips and evokes the hand of the Statue of Liberty holding her torch. Mr. Koons said it also echoed Pablo Picasso’s “Bouquet of Peace,” a 1958 lithograph.


Mr. Koons announced the gift of a sculpture to the people of Paris in November 2016, months after Jane D. Hartley, the United States ambassador to France at the time, had asked him to create a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks in France in 2015 and 2016.


But Mr. Koons only donated the concept for “Bouquet of Tulips.” The production — costing 3.5 million euros, or about $3.8 million at current exchange rates — was raised by French and American donors.


In an interview in Paris last week, Mr. Koons said he had added $1 million of his own money, after delays led to spiraling costs.


The tulips were supposed to be installed in 2017 on the plaza in front of the Palais de Tokyo museum, which has a view of the Eiffel Tower. But the pavement wasn’t strong enough to support the 34-ton sculpture and its 27-ton base, and that was not the only problem.


In January 2018, French artists, politicians and cultural figures asked for the plan to be abandoned, arguing in a letter to the newspaper Libération that the gift “was opportunistic and cynical.”


The letter’s signatories, including the filmmaker Olivier Assayas and two former culture ministers of France, complained of Mr. Koons’s closeness with luxury brands, and said its installation in such a prominent Paris location “would amount to advertising or product placement.”


The plan to place the monument in front of the Palais de Tokyo was dropped in May 2018.

The idea for the tulips looked set to fade away until the project received a lift in the fall of 2018 with the nomination of Christophe Girard as the top culture official in City Hall. Mr. Girard invited Mr. Koons to visit the gardens of the Petit-Palais, an art museum near the Champs-Élysées.

Mr. Koons “was like a child walking on the moon” when he first saw the gardens, Mr. Girard said in a telephone interview, and the artist agreed to let the tulips be installed there.


Mr. Girard added that Paris had needed time to heal from the attacks but would now be able to appreciate Mr. Koons’s gift. “As you grieve, what you want is a short note and not too many flowers,” he added.


At the inauguration ceremony on Friday, Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris said the city was used to “storms” and controversies around works of art. But, she added, if you are offered a gift, “you accept it, especially those gifts that come from the heart and are dedicated to life, to optimism.”

Mr. Koons said that he hoped his tulips would become part of the local landscape and that Parisians would interact with them.


Mr. Girard expressed a hope that citizens would use the sculpture as a backdrop for important occasions, like wedding photographs or proposals.

But he acknowledged that not everyone would be pleased. “I can already hear people say, ‘It’s so kitsch, it’s so American,’ ” Mr. Girard said.

“But some excess in a beautiful place,” he added, “that represents Paris pretty well.”


Original Source:


October 4, 2019