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French Art Dealers Join Chorus of Opposition Against Jeff Koons’s Big Bouquet

The 80,000-pound sculpture is still being fabricated, but already an association representing 255 French art dealers wants it moved.

Where in Paris will Jeff Koons's "Bouquet of Tulips" (2016) end up? (illustration by the author, historical map of Paris via oldmapsofparis.com)
Where in Paris will Jeff Koons’s “Bouquet of Tulips” (2016) end up? (illustration by the author, historical map of Paris via oldmapsofparis.com)

On Tuesday, Jeff Koons met with France’s Minister of Culture, Françoise Nyssen, to discuss his embattled gift to the country, “Bouquet of Tulips” (2016). Though the content of their conversation is not known exactly, the outcome was clear. Deputy Mayor of Paris Christophe Girard told Europe 1 that “we will welcome Jeff Koons’s work at the right site.” That may mean finding a new spot for it, after the announced location — a pedestrian plaza between the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris and the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art space — has proved extremely contentious.

Indeed, a group representing some 255 French art galleries, the Professional Committee of Art Galleries (PCAT), issued a statement this week demanding that the sculpture be installed elsewhere. The statement, attributed to the organization’s president, gallerist Georges-Philippe Vallois, makes a point of noting that it is not objecting to “the aesthetic qualities or the relevance of the sculpture as an homage to the victims of the attacks in France,” as others have. Rather, the art dealers want the sculpture’s location to be one that won’t compete with or be impacted by the programming of adjacent museums.

The proposed future site of Jeff Koons’s “Bouquet of Tulips,” with the main entrance to the municipal Museum of Modern Art at left and the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art center at right. (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
The proposed future site of Jeff Koons’s “Bouquet of Tulips,” with the main entrance to the municipal Museum of Modern Art at left and the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art center at right. (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

“If the point is to pay homage to the artist and to the patrons for their generosity, and the attention given to victims of terrorism, it is important that the commemoration of a dramatic event find its place in an appropriate and specific context outside any locale tied to artistic activities that might weaken the memory or distract from it,” the statement reads in part (it is included in full below). “It is the duty of the City of Paris to make such a site in collaboration with all the people concerned, and in accord with the artist.”

According to a defense of “Bouquet of Tulips” published by Jérôme and Emmanuelle de Noirmont, the art dealers brokering the Koons project (who are PCAT members), many other sites around the city were initially considered. It’s unclear if any of those are still on the table, but the phrasing of PCAT’s statement seems to call for the creation of a specific memorial site, instead of dropping the Koons into an existing space, especially one with an existing cultural function that “must remain free for those institutions to program.”

The full PCAT statement, translated by the author, is included below.

*  *  *

The Professional Committee of Art Galleries wishes to make known its opposition to the permanent installation of the Jeff Koons sculpture “Bouquet of Tulips” between the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris and the Palais de Tokyo.

At issue here are not the aesthetic qualities or the relevance of the sculpture as an homage to the victims of the attacks in France, but the site that has been chosen.

If the point is to pay homage to the artist and to the patrons for their generosity, and the attention given to victims of terrorism, it is important that the commemoration of a dramatic event find its place in an appropriate and specific context outside any locale tied to artistic activities that might weaken the memory or distract from it.

It is the duty of the City of Paris to make such a site in collaboration with all the people concerned, and in accord with the artist.

We believe that the immediate surroundings of the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris and the Palais de Tokyo, much like those of the Centre Georges Pompidou, must remain free for those institutions to program in function of current events and should not be subject to definitive, permanent attribution. By nature temporary, the artistic occupation of these spaces should be entrusted to the curators who are in charge of programming them.

Georges-Philippe Vallois
President of the Professional Committee of Art Galleries

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