Jeff Koons’s controversial Bouquet of Tulips will take root on the lawn of the Petit Palais, the historic home of the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts, which is near the Champs Élysées.
The city’s deputy mayor for culture, Christophe Girard, made the surprise announcement this morning on the French radio station, France Inter. “Everything happened yesterday,” he said, explaining how the US artist made a flying visit to Paris to scope out potential sites. The chosen spot is in the gardens outside the museum, which is just behind the Grand Palais.
“We are so pleased that we have finally found a solution to install the sculpture in Paris,” says Emanuelle de Noirmont, of Koons’s Paris gallery NoirmontArtProduction. She tells artnet News that the US artist left yesterday with “a great smile on his face.”
The decision was a relief for the artist, she reveals. Koons’s Tulips has been mired in controversy since the idea was first announced. Various figures in the French art world criticized the original planned location at the Place de Tokyo, the sculpture’s cost, and its design, which nods to the flame held aloft by the Statue of Liberty. “He was very affected by all the controversies that were giving a false idea of his intentions, which I would say were pure, generous, and very supportive to the French people and France, because Jeff has been in love with France for a long time,” de Noirmont says.
She adds that Koons was delighted that his sculpture will be installed in the “very core of Paris.” The decision to go ahead with the site outside the Petit Palais places “the sculpture and his donation once again in a positive context rather than a negative context,” she adds.
The monumental work was conceived as a symbol of solidarity with the city after terror attacks in 2015 and 2016. It will be financed by foundations and private donors, although the city will draw from public money to maintain and protect it. On the radio this morning, Girard emphasized that it was an important gesture of sympathy and “Franco-American friendship,” adding that part of the thinking behind the chosen site was its proximity to the US Embassy in France. It is a “reaffirmation of our connection, our friendship, with the American people,” he said.
The exact date for the work’s installation has yet to be announced. Around two months are needed to carry out technical studies at the site because the sculpture depicting a hand holding out a bouquet of colorful tulips will weigh around 33 tons. After the study is carried out, the inauguration date will have to be co-ordinated with city officials but should be in the first half of 2019, de Noirmont says.
The Petit Palais was first proposed by the director of the museum in June 2016. The site was offered again this summer after the Place de Tokyo plan was scrapped. De Noirmont says that Koons feels very connected to the museum as he loves its collection of 19th century paintings. The new site has the added benefit that it is on solid ground. At the Palais de Tokyo it would have stood on top of a basement.
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