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French Fiasco

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As a token of condolences, the world renowned artist Jeff Koons donated a monumental sculpture titled “Bouquet of Tulips” to France in wake of the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. As a gift to the victims and their families, the statue is intended to be in the center of the city and widely recognizable as a Jeff Koons piece. In the artwork, an arrangement of flowers are held high by a caucasian fist as a nod to the Statue of Liberty located in New York City. The people of France gifted us kindly with it in 1886 and America now is returning the favor.

However, many are saying that Koons’ donation to the French is closer to self-promotion than commemoration. The site of the artwork is not even remotely close to the location of the attack, the Bataclan concert hall and its surrounding restaurants where terrorists killed 130 people and wounded hundreds. In fact, the piece is supposed to be placed beside the Palais de Tokyo, a space solely dedicated to young emerging artists–which Koons is certainly not.

While I disagree for the most part, I do see where the french artists are coming from in saying that it is a selfish and disrespectful act. With US President Trump and French President Macron at great odds on the subject of climate change, it is important to handle our historic alliance with care. Koons’ efforts are only an extension of the artist’s and the states’ gratitude in remaining by our side. Artists are often regarded as brash and presumptuous, but just because they are seen that way does not mean their intentions are like so. It’s like seeing someone with a bad case of RBF and automatically assuming they’re a she-dog.

The tulips are a symbol of optimism, “universal values that the US and France share,” as Koons told the french morning newspaper, Le Figaro, back in 2016. In that same article, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, described the gift as “a beautiful and generous gesture, which testifies to the very strong friendship between our two countries,” and explained that “Those who explain that Jeff Koons is not a great artist are the same ones who dedicated him as such.”

Although Koons is keen on following through with his French-installation art, the people of France have been hesitant to accept his gift with open arms. Critics in the art industry and beyond have largely balked at the massive structure and there is a definite possibility of the piece not ending up on foreign soil at all.

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