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Site of Jeff Koons’s Controversial Paris Memorial to Terror Victims Rejected

French Ministry of Culture says that it won't locate the controversial memorial to the city’s terror victims opposite the Palais de Tokyo

Rendering of Jeff Koons, Bouquet of Tulips, 2016. Courtesy: the artist and Noirmontartproduction

Rendering of Jeff Koons, Bouquet of Tulips, 2016. Courtesy: the artist and Noirmontartproduction

Rendering of Jeff Koons, Bouquet of Tulips, 2016. Courtesy: the artist and Noirmontartproduction

The future of Jeff Koons’s controversial ‘gift’ to the city of Paris, a sculpture titled Bouquet of Tulips, has been made uncertain after the French Ministry of Culture said that it had dropped plans to situate it outside the Palais de Tokyo.

Koons’s artwork is meant as a memorial to the victims of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris. Standing 10 metres tall, and composed of bronze and aluminium, the piece appears as a hand holding up a bouquet, referencing the Statue of Liberty. But it has been the subject of furious criticism from the French art community since its inception.

Although Koons intended the piece as a ‘gift’, the production and installation costs were not included. And critics have been concerned that the taxpayer will end up footing the bill. Art critic Isabel Pasquier said last year: ‘Jeff Koons is a businessman, and we quickly understood that he was offering Paris to himself as a present.’

In January, an open letter signed by over 20 French arts professionals, including artist Christian Boltanski and former culture minister Frédéric Mitterand, took aim at the work, criticizing how the piece was going to be funded, and the absence of an open call for such a monument. ‘We appreciate gifts, but free, unconditional, and without ulterior motives’, the letter read. The following month, the French arts ethics group, the Professional Committee of Art Galleries, released a call for the artwork to be placed in another location.

‘We’re keen to move on from the controversy. He is not set on the Palais de Tokyo site,’ culture minister Françoise Nyssen said of the artist, in a Le Figaro report. Instead, the plan is to locate the sculpture in a new site: somewhere ‘popular, visible and shared by everyone’, the minister said. But this came as news to representatives of the artist, who only learned of the ministry’s decision through media reports.

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