New reports claim that the State Department is planning to spend $400,000 in taxpayer money for a statue of a camel that will be built at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Buzzfeed first reported on the $400,000 plan after obtaining a document that outlined the department’s decision to procure the statue, titled “Camel Contemplating Needle,” by artist John Baldessari. The statue is 500 pounds of fiberglass and depicts a white camel staring at the eye of a large needle.
“This artist’s product is uniquely qualified,” reads the document obtained by Buzzfeed. “Public art which will be presented in the new embassy should reflect the values of a predominantly Islamist country.”
The statue itself is reportedly an interpretation of a passage from the New Testament of the Bible that talks about how it is more difficult for wealthy people to make it into heaven. The same “Camel Contemplating Needle” statue is already on display at Hall Wines in Napa Valley, California, and for critics who say that $400,000 is far too much money for the State Department to spend on a statue, it should be noted that the Napa Valley statue was purchased for much more than what the State Department is willing to shell out.
“[$400,000] is actually a very a reduced price for this sculpture,” said Steve Beyer of Beyer Projects, art dealer for the U.S. Embassy’s project. “There is an art market that makes these prices, and this is one of the most prominent American artists.”
Beyer says that they weren’t expecting to receive a call from the government asking for his help to get the statue built.
“They approached us,” said Beyer to Buzzfeed. “We were, of course, quite surprised.”
Beyer understands why many Americans might be upset that the State Department is willing to spend that much taxpayer money on a statue but does believe that other will see it from a positive perspective.
“It depends on what part of the public you are in,” said Beyer. “If you go to the museum and enjoy art and are moved by it, things cost what they cost.”
The statue purchase proposal reportedly came from the State Department’s Office of Art Embassies.
Copy of statue contracting document (via Buzzfeed):