Jeff Koons Sculpture in Honor of Paris Terror Victims Draws Outrage

Jeff Koons at the news conference in November 2016 at which he announced his donation of “Bouquet of Tulips” to the City of Paris.

French artists and cultural figures have publicly demanded that the City of Paris abandon plans to install a divisive memorial by the American contemporary artist Jeff Koons.

In a letter published in the French newspaper Libération on Monday, prominent figures including the filmmaker Olivier Assayas, the architect Dominique Perrault and the former culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand described the work, “Bouquet of Tulips,” as “shocking” and called for plans to install it in the plaza in front of the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art and the Palais de Tokyo to be abandoned.

Mr. Koons announced in November 2016 that he would donate the sculpture to the City of Paris to commemorate victims of recent terrorist attacks in the French capital, after the United States ambassador to France at the time, Jane D. Hartley, suggested the idea. Unusually, Mr. Koons’s donation consisted of the concept for the sculpture only; the funds for its production were to be raised separately.

After it took longer than expected to raise the 3.5 million euros, or $4.3 million at current exchange rates, needed to make the piece, the project has faced further delays and a mixed reception in Paris. The sculpture, which is being made in Germany, is near completion, the Art Newspaper reported last week.

The piece, which is almost 12 meters high and 8 wide (40 by 26 feet), is one of Mr. Koons’s largest. It is intended to evoke the hand of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the people of the United States. Mr. Koons’s sculpture, made of polychrome bronze, stainless steel and aluminum, depicts a hand holding a bunch of multicolor flowers.

In the letter to Libération, the signatories objected to the fact that Mr. Koons’s donation extended only to the “idea” of the work, not to its production and installation, which required donations, some of which qualified for tax deductions.

The letter also called the chosen location for the sculpture, in the 16th Arrondissement, “surprising, if not opportunistic, even cynical.” It is an area popular with tourists, across the river from the Eiffel Tower, and nowhere near where the terrorist attacks of 2015 it is supposed to commemorate took place.

The letter further noted that, while Mr. Koons had come to “symbolize a type of industrial, spectacular and speculative art,” providing “such strong visibility and recognition would amount to advertising or product placement.”

“We appreciate gifts,” the signatories said in closing their letter, but ones that are “free, unconditional and without ulterior motives.”

Authorization to install the sculpture has not yet been granted by city officials.

In November 2016, when the work was first announced, Mr. Koons told The New York Times, “I hope that the ‘Bouquet of Tulips’ can communicate a sense of future, of optimism, the joy of offering, to find something greater outside the self.”

“Bouquet of Tulips” is the first commemorative work by Mr. Koons, who is best known for his metallic sculptures of balloon animals. He is a polarizing figure in the art world, whose previous works in France have also proved divisive. A 2008 exhibition at the Château de Versailles, the first retrospective of the artist in the country, was described by one critic as a “sullying of the most sacred aspects of our heritage and identity” and “an outrage to Marie Antoinette.”

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