Isn’t there something just so immediately hilarious about bestowing a gift nobody wants only to unveil it as even more hideous than anticipated? Ta da!
This week, Jeff Koons perfected this show-and-tell act with the inauguration of his monumental and massively ugly Bouquet of Tulips in Paris as a memorial to the victims of the 2015 terrorist attacks. And well, it sure is…something. A giant uncanny valley fist rises from the ground (is it modeled after Jeff’s own hand?) clutching a multicolored gathering of tulips, which look more like marshmallows on sticks ready for a bonfire. Who wants smores!
Hot damn! What a gift! It’s like Jeff Koons sent the French a bowel movement, which they may have preferred anyway. Mostly because many of the city’s citizens didn’t even want it in the first place, as illustrated by an open letter published in Liberation in 2018 begging for the plan to be abandoned likening the sculpture to advertising. Apparently the city also had to pay for their own “gift.” Does it come with a receipt?
And look–I know Jeff Koons is an easy target, and in fact, his work makes people so blindly angry that I’m somewhat of a fan. Sure, I’m not a Roberta Smith level “Leave Jeff Koons alone!!” type, but his overblown sensibilities and art market popularity do inherently if inadvertently make a critique about the utter shallowness of the blue chip art world. The problem with Koons isn’t actually Koons himself. It’s that his vacuous capitalist shill worked. He’s just the scammer that succeeded and bully for him! He’s certainly not the only artist making enormous pieces of garbage.
While I liked Koons’s trashy museum gift shop-inspired collaboration with Louis Vuitton, his Bouquet of Tulips might be my new favorite of his creative catastrophes. The Statue of Liberty this is not (though apparently inspired by the Lady’s torch). Whereas the French gave us this enduring symbol of freedom, we gave them a gargantuan fist–huge, bright, kitschy, and ultimately devoid of meaning. How appropriately American.
And not only that, it’s absolutely perfect for a GIF review. So “read” on: