French resistance rises to 'tulip' gift from Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons in front of his "Tulips" sculpture in New York. He has offered a similar tulip-themed work to Paris to honour victims of the November 2015 terror attacks

A year after the terror attacks that struck Paris in November 2015, Jeff Koons said he would give the city a monumental sculpture meant to honour the victims -- but critics of the project are saying 'no thanks'. About two dozen artists, gallery owners and officials wrote an open letter Monday urging the city of Paris not to install the 12-metre-tall "Bouquet of Tulips" outside the Museum of Modern Art and adjacent Palais de Tokyo, a contemporary art centre. The project -- a giant hand holding multicoloured flowers -- is meant to mimic the Statue of Liberty grasping its torch, but was denounced as a "product placement", according to the text, whose signatories include the filmmaker Olivier Assayas and former culture minister Frederic Mitterrand. "A brilliant and inventive creator in the 1980s, Jeff Koons has since become the emblem of industrial art which is spectacular and speculative," the letter states. But if the goal is to honour the victims of the deadliest terror attack ever on French soil, the text says, "shouldn't there be a call for submissions, as is usually the case, with an opportunity given to French artists?" It also says the site for the work is nowhere near the Stade de France nor the Bataclan concert hall and nearby bars and restaurants where jihadist attackers killed a total of 130 people. Private donors financed the sculpture's three-million-euro price tag, but taxpayers are on the hook for work required to reinforce the ground supporting the bronze, stainless steel and aluminium work, the text says. Koons, who is known for toying with objects from popular culture, said it was designed as an offering in memory of the victims and as a symbol of optimism, in an effort to help Parisians overcome the tragedy that struck the city. Other signatories of the letter include the artists Christian Boltanski and Jean-Luc Moulene, and Emilie Cariou, a lawmaker in President Emmanuel Macron's LREM party and vice president of parliament's finances commission.