The US State Department is planning to spend $400,000 in taxpayer funds to buy a sculpture for the new American embassy being built in Islamabad, according to Buzzfeed.com.
The sculpture titled “Camel Contemplating Needle” is the work of American contemporary artist John Baldessari and it depicts a life-sized white camel made of fiberglass staring at an over-sized threading needle.
Officials explained the decision to purchase such an expensive art piece for the embassy through a four-page document by saying: “This artist’s product is uniquely qualified. Public art which will be presented in the new embassy should reflect the values of a predominantly Islamic country.”
In a statement, State Department press spokesperson Christine Foushee said the proposed purchase comes from the department’s “Office of Art in Embassies.” In new construction projects, she said, a small part of the total funds, about 0.5%, is spent on art purchases.
Steven Beyer of Beyer Projects, the art dealer for the project, said the government reached out. “They approached us,” he said. “We were, of course, quite surprised.”
The $400,000 price tag “is actually a very a reduced price for this sculpture,” he said. “There is an art market that makes these prices, and this is one of the most prominent American artists.”
Another copy of “Camel Contemplating a Needle” is on display at Hall Wines in Napa Valley, California.