Jeff Koons Gives France A Giant Bouquet Of Flowers, But It Comes With A Price
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now, the artist Jeff Koons is honoring the victims of the attacks in France last year with a giant outdoor sculpture for the city of Paris. Construction is already underway for a bronze, stainless steel and aluminum sculpture called Bouquet of Tulips. As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, Koons is donating the work, but it does have a price.
ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: The idea started with the American ambassador to France, Jane Hartley. Last year, after the Paris attacks, Hartley says, the embassy was inundated with cards and emails.
JANE HARTLEY: What I wanted to somehow get across was what the public was feeling and the support the public felt for France and also, really, the history of the two countries.
BLAIR: So she called Jeff Koons and asked him if he would donate a work. Koons is one of the most expensive living artists in the world. One of his stainless steel balloon dogs sold for $58 million at auction. He's donating the design, but not the cost to fabricate and install the work. That will cost about 3 million euros, or $3.2 million. Benjamin Sutton, who writes for the arts website Hyperallergic, says that's not unreasonable.
BENJAMIN SUTTON: In terms of pushing technology forward and pushing the limits of art fabrication and sculpture making, he's really at the forefront. And so I think part of what that 3 million euro price tag is simply the extremely high costs of making an extremely complex sculpture.
BLAIR: A French-American non-profit hopes to raise that money from private donors in both countries. This will be Jeff Koons largest outdoor sculpture yet, standing 34 feet high. A hand emerges from the ground, holding a fistful of brightly colored tulips. Koons is one of those love-him-or-hate-him artists, and his design has gotten some pushback from critics. Le Monde called the gift a cadeau empoisonne, meaning more a curse than a blessing. The cultural magazine Telerama questioned who really would benefit from the public sculpture - Paris or Koons? Sutton, who was born in Paris, thinks it looks like something you'd find in a suburban mall.
SUTTON: I just think it's pretty gaudy.
BLAIR: Jeff Koons says the hand holding a bouquet of tulips is partly a reference to the Statue of Liberty holding a torch. Liberty was a gift from France to the United States in the 19th century. The money to pay for it also came from people in both countries. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.
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