Jeff Koons Public Sculpture Spurs Viral Online Protest

"Commissioning Koons is like saying 'oh NYC has art like this, we need this'"

A rendering of Jeff Koon's Coloring Book sculpture at the Kings new arena. Photo: Sacramento Kings.

Sacramento may be set to erect an $8 million public sculpture by Jeff Koons outside its new basketball arena, but not everyone is a fan of the plan. (And not everyone is a fan of Jeff Koons; see Jeff Koons Plagiarism Lawsuit Could Top Millions.) A social media campaign against the artwork has begun, with local artist David Garibaldi leading the Instagram charge against Coloring Book.

When the City of Sacramento and the Sacramento Kings announced the planned public artwork last week, a press release noted that the piece is “intended to capture a child’s ecstatic enjoyment of the world” (see $8 Million Jeff Koons Sculpture Commissioned by Sacramento Basketball Team).

As reported by local news station Fox 40, the decision to outsource such a major project to an out-of-state artist bugs some residents of a city that just won an eight-year battle to keep its basketball franchise from moving to Virginia Beach, Anaheim, or Seattle. Shouldn’t the city funds support a local artist, rather than an international sensation like Koons, they ask (see Jeff Koons as the Art World’s Great White Hope)? Wrote Garibaldi:

I feel like they are shopping for art with other people’s money, and not asking their opinion on it. Most importantly it does not feel inspired by the movement that created that arena. It’s going to be an amazing and historic piece of art, but it does not represent our city or where it’s going. … Commissioning Koons is like saying “oh NYC has art like this, we need this”, or “oh they have an expensive purse, I need that too.”

The post has garnered 350 likes and several supportive comments from others who would prefer the $8 million be spent in support of local talent. “We don’t need to prove anything to anyone by having a Koons piece,” added @thelizw, while @lulem711 noted regretfully that the Koons sculpture “does not represent Sacramento or the Kings.” Commenter @sean_domingo22 was more disappointed in the work itself, writing that “it’s also sad when this piece of ‘Art’ looks like a bunch of dicks pointing in the air!”

Anti-Koons Sentiment

Twitter is also home to some anti-Koons sentiment, as Jeff Musser, a Sacramento native now living in  China, criticized the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, which backed the selection. “#SMAC should change it’s [sic] name to ‘SMACK-ing’ local artists in the face,” he wrote. Another Musser tweet included a link to an article announcing Coloring Book with the comment “I call bullshit.”

The new Kings arena will open next October, and will boast a $5.5 million art budget, thanks to the city’s Art in Public Places program, which requires at least two percent of the budget for all public construction projects be spent on the public art. The rest of the sculpture’s funding has been secured through private donations.

In response to the criticism, city spokesperson Linda Tucker told Fox 40 that neither the panel that selected Koons nor SMAC “are obligated to review multiple proposals. Their mission is to choose the very best, not discriminate by region.”

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