You may be familiar with the artist Jeff Koons, the artist who created “Balloon Dog” amongst many other colourful works. While his works look light and airy, they are actually made of stainless steel, which has been polished and painted.
Koons set to fame in the 1980 with his first solo exhibit, and since then has had pieces shown around the world, including in front of the Rockefeller Centre and in the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. He has also received as pattering of awards and has notoriety in the industrial art field.
So, when back in 2016, he offered the“Bouquet of Tulips” as a monument to the biggest terrorist attack to happen on French soil, obviously there was initial delight. Koons wanted to give an“offering of remembrance to the victims of the terrible tragedies that have happened in France over the last two years”. This was met with the Paris Mayor, Ann Hidalgo, saying it would be installed in front of the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, near the Trocadéro. Hidalgo had commented “The fact that this great artist has decided to offer to the city of Paris … a monumental artwork is a symbol of generosity and sharing, and shows our capital’s ties with the United States are unbreakable,”
At the time of offering, the piece had yet to be built, and was to be funded by private investors, at a cost of £2.6 million. Little did Paris realise that they would be footing the bill for the installation of the work.
The news of the offering sparked controversy in the art world, with critics coming forwards asking questions around the location and necessity of the piece, as this was nowhere near the sites of the attacks, and would bear no relevance in its placement, other than what was seen as self-gratifying product placement.
An open letter was written and signed by artists, critics and gallery owners, urging a decision not to install the work outside the museum. The piece was set to symbolise the hand of the statue of liberty, holding flowers in a gesture of peace, optimism and solidarity, yet they all felt that the placement was incorrect and would spoil the view as well as make no sense to the tribute that it was supposed to be for.
The piece, now created, weighs in at 35 tonnes, would require extensive work to be placed in front of the museum which would have come from the tax payers’ pockets, ensuring reinforcement for the bronze, steel and aluminium statue.
Since January this year, discussions have been held as to where the statue should be places, after such vehement opposition, and a decision taken that a new spot will be sort for the gift.
It was noted that Koons is a brilliant and inventive artist, but his work stood for industrialism and workshop productionart.
Koons has been cited as wanting to move on from the controversy as he felt it has been over the top and unnecessary.
While the piece is yet to be erected, the conceptual picture is above, showing the realistic hand, holding Koons trademark tulips, in a variety of colours. Let’s hope when this is installed that the gift of flowers has not been tarnished by the feeling of the people and can bring the symbolic meaning that was originally intended.