PARIS (AFP) — American pop artist Jeff Koons said Tuesday he was “saddened” by the negative reaction in France to a controversial sculpture he had gifted to Paris after the 2015 terror attacks on the city.
Koons’ 39-foot tall “Bouquet of Tulips” will be inaugurated Friday at a site near the Petit Palais museum that is partly obscured from view by trees, ending a four-year row over its location.
It features a hand holding a huge bunch of multicolored tulips, a gesture intended to mimic how the figure in the Statue of Liberty grasps her torch.
Koons created the monumental bouquet after being asked to come up with a work symbolizing America’s solidarity with France in the wake of the Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead.
But the proposed site of the work — outside the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art museum, on an esplanade facing the Eiffel Tower — quickly ran into resistance.
Koons told Le Figaro he was “saddened” by the row, which he claimed was triggered by “a lot of misunderstandings and misinformation.”
The 64-year-old insisted it was not he who had chosen the Palais de Tokyo site, saying it was one of several locations proposed by the city of Paris and which he had thought would be “marvelous for my piece.”
Last year, dozens of artists, gallery owners and officials penned an open letter objecting to the location, arguing it smacked of “product placement” by a artist known for his “spectacular and speculative” works.
Others argued it would block views of the Eiffel Tower.
In October, the city of Paris announced it had finally found a new location for the orphaned flowers in a garden behind the Petit Palais.
Koons said the controversy had been “painful” but the sculpture had given him a “magnificent opportunity to show my respect and love for France and the French.”
Private donors financed the work’s estimated $3.8 million price tag.
Koons said the proceeds of the sculpture’s copyright would be shared between associations representing terror victims and the city of Paris.
© Agence France-Presse