New Jeff Koons sculpture a tribute to Paris

By Ewan McDonald

Jeff Koons Bouquet of Tulips (2016). © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Noirmontartproduction. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Noirmontartproduction. Illustration 3D de l’oeuvre in situ.
Jeff Koons Bouquet of Tulips (2016). © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Noirmontartproduction. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Noirmontartproduction. Illustration 3D de l’oeuvre in situ.
American artist Jeff Koons – whose work is the most expensive by a living artist - is giving Paris a monumental sculpture of a bunch of flowers in commemoration of the lives lost in the 2015 terrorist attacks.

The work, called Bouquet of Tulips, is a “symbol of remembrance, optimism and healing in moving forward from the horrific events that occurred in Paris one year ago,” Koons said.

The fistful of colourful flowers is also meant to resemble the hand of the Statue of Liberty.

“One hundred and thirty years after France gave the Statue of Liberty to the United States, Jeff Koons wanted to celebrate the remarkable France-America alliance that has endured and flourished for over 200 years,” said an official statement.

The work is 10.4m high, 8.4m wide and 10.2m deep, and is being built in Germany, made of bronze, stainless steel and aluminium.

It will be installed on the plaza outside the Museum of Modern Art and the Palais de Tokyo near the banks of the Seine next year.

“I hope the work is life-changing to people,” Koons said. “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.”

Koons said he hoped the flowers would give the victims’ families the strength to continue. “They are a symbol that life goes forward,” he said, adding that the sculpture had been inspired by the floral paintings of Monet, Picasso and Fragonard, among others.

Jane Hartley, the US ambassador to France and Monaco, said she had been thinking of a cultural offering the United States could give France “in a spirit of ‘we’re in this together’” after the terrorist attacks at the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and a kosher supermarket, and then the November attacks that killed 130 people.

“My hope is this amazing sculpture will bring visitors to Paris,” Hartley said at a news conference announcing the donation. Tourism in Paris has declined dramatically since the attacks.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo told the news conference the sculpture delivered an optimistic message in turbulent times. “We need to tell the youth and the young generation that it’s not true that tomorrow’s world will be worse than it is today,” she said.

Hartley approached Koons with the idea. “I know how much he loves France, and he’s the most prominent American living artist,” Hartley said.

Koons, best known for his metallic sculptures of balloon animals and other souvenir and everyday objects, is also one of the most polarising and well-remunerated figures in the contemporary art world.

His works have sold for hundreds of millions of dollars, but he waived payment for the sculpture.

This is the first commemorative work the New Yorker has created, but he does have a work, Balloon Flower (Red), on display outside 7 World Trade Center in Manhattan.

The $A4.29m / $NZ4.5 statue is being financed by private donations from America and France.

Koons has not always been appreciated in France. In 2008, when 16 of his works were displayed at the royal palace and gardens of Versailles, critics questioned whether the historic site was an appropriate place for sculptures by “an artist considered a paragon of kitsch”.

When it sold for $A78m / $NZ82m, his Balloon Dog became the most expensive artwork by a living artist.



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