Rendering of Jeff Koons's Bouquet of Tulips.

Cultural Figures Protest Jeff Koons’s Memorial to Paris Terror Victims

More than twenty French cultural figures have penned an open letter urging the city of Paris to scrap its plans to install a controversial Jeff Koons–designed memorial to commemorate victims of recent terror attacks. Published by the French newspaper Libération on Monday, January 22, the document calls the work by the American artist “shocking” and suggests that Koons has “ulterior motives.”

Titled Bouquet of Tulips, the statue would be one of Koons’s largest works, at thirty-four-feet high and twenty-seven-feet wide. The piece features a hand holding a number of colored balloon-like flowers, a nod to the hand of the Statue of Liberty (which France gifted to the United States in 1886). While Koons intended for the work to be a gift, he donated only the idea for the memorial. To build the $4.3 million sculpture, the country had to find the funds elsewhere. The letter is critical of this, calling it “costly” for the state and the taxpayers. It also argues that the proposed location for the work, a plaza that is shared by the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, is “opportunistic” and “cynical,” since it is nowhere near, and has no connection to, the Stade de France, the Bataclan theater, and the various restaurants and cafés where the November 13, 2015, terror attacks took place.

While Koons did not contribute to construction costs for the piece, which is near completion, the Art Newspaper reports that he plans to donate all proceeds from the sale of postcards of the piece to the families of the 130 victims for the next twenty-five years. “Bouquet of Tulips was created as a symbol of remembrance, optimism, and healing in moving forward from the horrific events that occurred in Paris one year ago,” Koons wrote in a press statement in 2016.

Among the letter’s signatories are filmmaker Olivier Assayas; Marie-Claude Beaud, the director of the New National Museum of Monaco; Frédéric Mitterrand, a former minister of culture; and artists Christian Boltanski, Jean-Luc Moulène, and Tania Mouraud.