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Rendering of Jeff Koons’s Bouquet of Tulips.
Rendering of Jeff Koons’s Bouquet of Tulips.

Controversial Jeff Koons Tulip Sculpture Inaugurated in Paris

Jeff Koons dedicated his controversial Bouquet of Tulips sculpture at a ceremony today at the Champs-Élysées gardens in Paris. The forty-one-foot bronze, aluminum, and stainless steel work—depicting a hand holding eleven tulips and conceived as a memorial sculpture to honor the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan theater attacks in Paris—has sparked debate since it was proposed in June 2016 due to its design, cost, and location.

Many people, including two former French culture ministers, artist Jean-Luc Moulène, and filmmaker Olivier Assayas, condemned the sculpture’s placement in such a central location—close to the city’s luxury shopping district and far from the theater where the attacks took place—as “opportunistic” and “cynical.”

Installed on the lawn of the Petit Palais, the monumental piece is estimated to have cost $3.9 million to fabricate and install. French and American donors, including Kenneth C. Griffin, Weber Investments, Bloomberg, Leonard A. Lauder, and Moët Hennesy - Louis Vuitton, funded the project. Koons said in an interview last week that he contributed $1 million to cushion escalating costs following delays.

Koons and the city of Paris have signed an agreement to funnel 80 percent of revenues and royalties from the work to associations for the victims’ families and 20 percent to the city for the piece’s maintenance. “The sculpture was created as a symbol of remembrance, optimism, and healing,” Koons said at the ceremony.

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