Controversial Jeff Koons Sculpture Debuts at Sacramento Arena

There's a shiny new Jeff Koons in Sacramento.

Jeff Koons, Coloring Book at the Golden 1 Center. Courtesy of the Golden 1 Center.
Jeff Koons, Coloring Book at the Golden 1 Center. Courtesy of the Golden 1 Center.

Art featured in sporting arenas might be having a moment. Just as the Miami Dolphins debuted a dozen street art murals, the Sacramento Kings were preparing to unveil their controversial Coloring Book, a 18-foot-tall Jeff Koons sculpture of a piglet made from colorful, mirror-polished stainless steel.

“I enjoy very much having a dialogue with Sacramento, with the art world here, with the fans, with everybody,” said Koons to some 200 guests on September 26, the official unveiling of the long-awaited work at the Golden 1 Center, according to Capital Public Radio. The arena officially opens September 30.

Coloring Book is part of Koons’s “Celebration” series, begun in 1994, of monumental sculptures and large-scale paintings “inspired by an enduring fascination with childhood experiences and optimistic consciousness,” according to a press release. Other unique versions of the piece have been shown in New York, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2008), and at London’s Royal Academy of Arts (2011). This is the first of the works to go on permanent public display.

Artist Jeff Koons attends the Jeff Koons x Google launch on May 09, 2016 in New York, New York. Courtesy of Ben Gabbe/Getty Images.

Jeff Koons. Courtesy of Ben Gabbe/Getty Images.

The $8 million, 11,000-pound piece attracted the ire of the local artistic community soon after it was announced in early 2015, with several artists expressing anger that they had not been given the opportunity to submit proposals of their own for the site. Those complaining also felt that Coloring Book was not a good representation of the Kings or the city of Sacramento.

“There’s a lot of people that were not happy with the process taken to choose this art,” local performance painter David Garibald, who was a leading critic of Koons’s selection, told CBS Sacramento.

“As a nation, we can use art, and our feeling about it, to engage in debate and discussion,” Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson told the crowd on Monday, perhaps in a subtle acknowledgment of the controversy.

Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé with artist Jeff Koons at the unveiling of his new sculpture <em>Coloring Book</em> at the Golden 1 Center. Courtesy of the Golden 1 Center.

Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé with artist Jeff Koons at the unveiling of his new sculpture Coloring Book at the Golden 1 Center. Courtesy of the Golden 1 Center.

Three local artists were also selected to create public art to be displayed outside the arena: Bryan Valenzuela, Bill Fontana, and Gale Hart, whose Missing the Mark, a group of massive stainless steel and fiberglass darts, was also unveiled on Monday.

In January, when Hart’s piece was chosen for the arena, she told the Sacramento Bee that the commission was the highlight of her career, which began in the 1970s—the press release touted her as “Sacramento’s Godmother of Contemporary Art”—but criticized what she perceived as a sense of entitlement from those complaining about the arrival of Koons’s work.

“Too many artists think the city needs to hand them something,” she said. “A lot of artists have this attitude that they’re special because they make art… There’s not an artist in this town that’s in a place in their career where they deserve $8 million.”


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