When American artist Jeff Koons and then Ambassador Jane D. Hartley announced a present to the city of Paris in November 2016, the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo was the first one to communicate and rejoice over it. Unfortunately the present, a 35 tons bouquet of tulips made in bronze, stainless steel and aluminum is a poisonous gift, financed by billionaire collectors of Koons and the original idea of commemorating the victims of the Bataclan has been polluted by a fierce battle.
A group of artists and supporters including Christian Boltanski, Marin Karmitz, Dominique Perrault, Daniel Templon and Olivier Assayas… have joined former minister Frédéric Mitterrand in fighting the project. There are two angles that are shocking: the fact that the sculpture would be installed facing the Eiffel Tower in the 16 th arrondissement, the equivalent of the upper East Side in New York, and not near the Bataclan in the very popular 11 th arrondissement where the murders took place on November 13, 2015.
The second is that it all seems to be an operation organized by the “artist”, who runs a multinational art industry and is suspected of wanting to create an image of generosity and compassion, for himself. The 10 m high project has become a symbol of “dirty” art speculation, not something that the French want to promote.
The sponsors of the project are well described in the best selling book written (in French) by Jean Gabriel Fredet, “Requins, Caniches et autres mystificateurs”, (sharks, poodles and other mystifiers) referring to Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons among other ambitious Chinese artists. This book is a perfect portrait of the commercial art world today, and it describes the ridiculous investments that some “collectors” make in art, calling it a “parallel currency” (monnaie parallèle) … Fredet has worked as a reporter for Nouvel Observateur for thirty years and is brilliant in his “photography” of the art market.
Since Jeff Koons was shown in Versailles nine years ago in an exhibition when Jean-Jacques Aillagon, former minister of culture was president of Versailles, many art lovers have been disgusted by his work which is seen as mercantile and surfing on trends.
The “recuperation” of the Bataclan bombings is considered as one step too far by the association of victims and the minister of culture is now the sole judge of the situation. Last night, Noirmontartproduction sent out a message saying that Jeff Koons would give all the earnings from the bouquet of tulips to the Association of victims.
While both Jean de Loisy from Palais de Tokyo and Fabrice Hergott from Musée d’Art Moderne, who share the space where the statue is due to be exhibited, are For the project, a huge number of artists and members of the French art community are fighting it. I’ll let you know what happens next!
And by the way, thank you to all of you who wrote worried by the flooding of the Seine: while many private boats in Paris and houses in the suburbs have been hurt, the center of town is safe.
(“Requins, Caniches et autres mystificateurs”, by Jean Gabriel Fredet, Albin Michel.)
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