Has Jeff Koons’s Paris Flower Been Plucked? French Culture Minister Publicly Rejects the Divisive Sculpture’s Proposed Site

The news came as a surprise to representatives of the artist ahead of a planned meeting with the minister.

French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen (L) poses for photographs with US artist Jeff Koons (R) during a meeting on January 30, 2018 in Paris. Photo: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images.

Jeff Koons may be re-evaluating the old adage that “it is better to give than to receive.”

After a year and a half of negotiations and controversy, the city of Paris has still not found a site for the controversial sculpture the American artist gifted to the city in memory of the victims of the 2015 terror attacks. The French Culture Minister has now publicly stated that the work will not be installed at the Place de Tokyo square in front of the Eiffel Tower, as the artist had initially proposed.

Ahead of a meeting with representatives of the artist on Monday, culture minister Françoise Nyssen told Le Figaro that the embattled sculpture would instead find a home in an alternative location. Nyssen told the newspaper she had spoken to Koons “many times” and that “we share the desire to come out on top of this controversy. He is not bent on the Place de Tokyo.”

The new location will be in a “popular, visible” location, according to the minister. She said she planned to discuss alternative sites with the artists’ representatives this week. One possible location is Parc de la Villette, a park in the north of Paris where technical studies on the work’s installation were recently conducted, according to AFP.

However, all of this was news to representatives of the artist, Paris City Hall, and Koons’s production team NoirmontArtProduction. They had been under the impression that the Place de Tokyo site was still on the table and were unhappy to discover its fate through the media, artnet News has learned.

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

The process of placing the sculpture has been a protracted one. Koons traveled to Paris to meet the minister at the end of January and they discussed the subject again by phone in April. According to a source close to the situation, the minister has been clear since the beginning of the year that she would prefer to see the work in another location. While possible alternatives were due to be discussed at this week’s meeting, nothing was meant to be released until all parties came to an agreement, the source said.

The meeting went ahead as scheduled yesterday with representatives for the artist, Paris City Hall, the Fonds de Paris (a foundation established to fund culture projects in the city), and NoirmontArtProduction. The French culture ministry confirmed to artnet News that no final decision has been made regarding the proposed 35-foot-tall sculpture, which features nine colored tulips held aloft by a hyper-realistic hand.

The debate over location is just the latest in a slew of controversies surrounding the proposed monument. After it was announced in fall of 2016, Koons’s gift was met with outcry from the French art world. Art dealers and prominent members of the art community, including the former president of the Pompidou Foundation Robert Rubin, swiftly voiced their dissent, taking umbrage at the work’s costly installation, its tone, and the proposed location amid the Place de Tokyo’s classical architecture. The embattled sculpture has also been defended vociferously by Koons’s production company and other members of the local scene.

NoirmontArtProduction declined to comment on the latest developments.

According to a report in Le Journal des Arts, representatives for Koons and the culture minister have scheduled a new meeting in mid-June to “move forward and identify a place.”

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