Jeff Koons’s controversial Bouquet of Tulips sculpture in Paris has been vandalized.
On Thursday afternoon, police reported a red graffiti tag on the plinth of the 33-ton work, which was unveiled in the gardens of the Champs-Elysées last month, that read: 11 Trous du c …, which roughly translates to “11 Holes of the butt…”
Authorities launched an investigation into the graffiti, according to Le Parisien, and brought in cleaning crew to remove the tag shortly thereafter. The vandal has not yet been identified.
Jérôme de Noirmont, who runs the company that produced Koons’s sculpture, which was intended as an homage to the victims of the 2015 terror attacks at Bataclan concert hall, said he noticed the marking on Thursday morning and alerted city officials. The graffiti was gone when he went back later that day.
De Noirmont tells Artnet News that he didn’t think the 15-centimeter marking on the work’s brass title plate rose to the level of vandalism. “The French press is exaggerating,” he says.
The sculpture, which depicts a white hand holding out 11 balloon flowers (inspired by a 1958 lithograph by Pablo Picasso), is meant to be “a symbol of remembrance, optimism, and healing,” Koons said at the work’s inauguration last month. But the work, a gift to Paris from Koons, has been a source of near-constant controversy since it was announced two years ago.
Many claimed the monument would be a burden on taxpayers, since the city is responsible for maintaining it. Others, in an open letter, called it “opportunistic and even cynical,” an example of “product placement.” The former president of the Pompidou Foundation referred to it as a ‘Poisoned Chalice.’
But one of the most prominent criticisms is the one that last week’s vandal shared. Best articulated by philosopher Yves Michaud, who wrote in the French daily magazine L’Obs, the sculpture looks like “11 colored anus mounted on stems.” Since then, the work has been nicknamed a “bouquet of ‘culipes’”—a portmanteau that roughly translates to “ass-tulips.”
“Those stylized tulips, next to the realist textures of the skin, it conjures up the association of an anus,” a passerby told Artnet at the site of the sculpture last month. “And Jeff Koons is an artist who thinks about everything. He’s commercial, but he thinks—it’s not an accident. So he’s giving us anuses, and that’s not really a gift. Everyone thinks it’s a bouquet of tulips, but I think it’s a bouquet of anuses.”
Nonetheless, de Noirmont says he sees plenty of people enjoying the sculpture, posing and taking pictures with it every day on his walk to work. “I hear people saying, ‘I don’t understand people why there were do many complaints.’”
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