Not Everyone Hates It! Members of the French Cultural Elite Defend Jeff Koons’s Polarizing Paris Monument

Loris Gréaud and Fleur Pellerin are among the signatories of a new letter defending the work.

US artist Jeff Koons poses for photographs during a meeting at the French Cultural Ministry in Paris on January 30, 2018. Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images.

In an open letter published by the French newspaper Le Monde, 37 French cultural luminaries urged their compatriots to say oui to a controversial sculpture that Jeff Koons plans to give as a monument to the victims of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice.

The signatories, which include former culture minister Fleur Pellerin, artist Loris Gréaud, Galerie Lelong president Jean Frémon, collector Dominique Guyot, president of the administrative council of the Palais de Tokyo Jacques-Antoine Granjon, and executor of the Picasso estate Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, urge the country to “accept this Bouquet of Tulips for the symbolic tribute it embodies,” they wrote. It is “a magnificent gesture of transnational generosity, a positive and colorful message delivered to current and future generations.”

Their letter comes in response to backlash last month from a number of other members of France’s art scene. In a previous open letter, more than two-dozen critics decried the artwork’s proposed location in front of the Palais de Tokyo museum, which is across town from the site of the attack, as well as its potential to disrupt views of the Eiffel Tower and its hefty price tag. (Koons is donating only the intellectual property of the sculpture; the fabrication itself will cost €3.5 million ($4.3 million), covered by the French state and private donations.)

Rendering of Bouquet of Tulips (2017). ©Jeff Koons. Courtesy of Noirmontartproduction.

The signatories of the new letter ask what better place there could be for an artwork than the proposed location between the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville and the Palais de Tokyo. “Is the square between two museums a natural place to place a work, rather than a parking lot?” they write.

They also pointed out that Parisians have made a habit out of deriding historic landmarks and monuments only to embrace them later, citing the Centre Pompidou, I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramid, and Rodin’s monument to Balzac as examples. Koons’s proposed Bouquet of Tulips is meant to recall the raised torch of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the US in 1886.

“We must accept what is offered to us,” they concluded. “You have to have the elegance to know how to receive with gratitude.”

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