The saga of Jeff Koons’s “Bouquet of Tulips” (2016) shows no signs of wilting. Today, following recent letters penned by cultural workers and art dealers deriding the enormous and expensive gift to the city of Paris and the people of France, Le Monde published an op-ed signed by 37 artists, curators, gallerists, and others exclaiming: “We must accept that which is offered to us.”
The op-ed in support of the 38-foot-tall, 36-ton, €3.5-million sculpture is signed by many prominent figures, including former Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin, the artist Loris Gréaud, Galerie Lelong President Jean Frémon, the collector Dominique Guyot, and the president of the administrative council of the Palais de Tokyo, Jacques-Antoine Granjon. They describe the Koons sculpture as “a message of hope” and “a magnificent gesture of transnational generosity.”
“Paris, city of know-how, hospitality, and openness, must accept this gesture, and all others like it,” they write. “The proposition was made to the artist to install his work between the Museum of Modern Art of the city and the Palais de Tokyo? So be it. Should there be sites too sacred and forbidden in a city whose very essence is to be in movement and constantly rethinking its own urbanism? After all, isn’t the esplanade between two museums a natural site for hosting an artwork, rather than serving as a parking lot?”
As it happens, while it seems quite likely that the sculpture will end up somewhere in Paris — it is reportedly in the process of being fabricated by a foundry in Germany — the site may very well change. According to a report on Tuesday by the French radio station RTL, the Koons sculpture has become the object of a power struggle between Paris’s Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen. Per the report, because the proposed site is owned by the state, not the city, Hidalgo has no jurisdiction to plant the Koons there. “We have to start over from scratch and find a new drop point,” a spokesperson for the mayor told RTL.
In spite of the apparent setback of needing to secure a new location for the Koons, the signatories of today’s op-ed see opposition to the work as shortsighted. They suggest that “Bouquet of Tulips” belongs to a centuries-long tradition of Parisian monuments and architectural projects that were originally met with derision and eventually became beloved.
“We must have the elegance to know how to receive gratefully,” they write. “Let us remember the polemics around the Centre Pompidou, the Louvre Pyramid, or Daniel Buren’s ‘columns,’ which followed in the historical lineage of polemics around ‘The Burghers of Calais’ and Rodin’s ‘Balzac.’”