Although initially a bit shocked, I was excited when I heard a work by Jeff Koons may be showcased at the center of our city. This excitement was followed by an involuntary pang of dread as I thought to myself, “Oh no, this $8-million price tag is going to make people in Sacramento hate art!”
But Koons is at the top of his game and will certainly hold a place in the cannon of art history forever. He has had sculptures sell for over $50 million, so I believe the series which includes the proposed sculpture for Sacramento,“Coloring Book,” will certainly gain value. The price is not the problem — particularly considering the majority of the cost for the work will be paid by the Kings and private donors. Great art isn’t just worth the materials and labor it takes to make it, but the entire history of an artist’s experience that brought them to this point.
I’m also not particularly upset by the fact that the project was not a given to a local artist. Roughly $1.5 million will be allocated to local artists. “Keep it local” is great for farmers markets, restaurants and small business, but I believe art should be shared on a global level, and only when a city is truly in touch with that idea can it become world class.
I had the distinct honor of showing my paintings alongside Jeff Koons in a traveling exhibition from 2005 to 2007. This proximity to Koons helped open many doors for me. It increased the value of my work and vastly increased my exposure, putting my work on the international art map. Though I have been a professional artist here for 12 years, I sell 90 percent of what I create in cities like Dallas, Miami, Atlanta and San Francisco. We simply don’t have a large pool of original art collectors here, though it’s growing all of the time. Most established professional artists are also in the game outside the city limits, and emerging artists from Sacramento are successfully representing our city elsewhere as well.
Is it possible this proximity to Koons could draw global attention to Sacramento’s art community? There is no doubt in my mind that it would. We have Wayne Thiebaud and the new state-of-the-art Crocker Art Museum to set us on the road to being a great art city, and I believe a sculpture of this caliber could be another step in the right direction.
However, I’m also not convinced that an iteration of an artistic work already produced expresses anything uniquely Sacramento. What does it say about us? What will it say to us?
Most of us are probably familiar with “Cupid’s Span,” the giant bow-and-arrow sculpture partially submerged near the Ferry Building in San Francisco, created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. This piece reads as a love letter to the beauty and citizens of the city. One can touch it and climb it. It’s clever, funny, soulful and poetic. In my eyes it’s perfect as far as public works go.
I think Sacramento deserves a love letter to our beautiful city too. However, I’m not sure the Koons piece fits the bill. Perhaps a site-specific piece would resonate better with us than something that has already been previously made as part of a series. Perhaps having at least a handful of world renowned artists propose projects would have been a more fruitful and diplomatic route. I would have loved to see what someone like Chris Burden, Anish Kapoor or Nancy Rubens would have proposed. And on a side note, the 18-foot height seems a bit small and out of scale with the size of the new arena.
If chosen, I hope we can find a way to relate to “Coloring Book,” to see our reflections in it — not just in it’s glossy surface but in it’s substance. I hope it’s not just a piece we stand and look at, but a piece we become a part of.
If the Koons piece is selected, I will proudly celebrate it. If it isn’t, I hope whatever is will match his level of artistic integrity while providing perhaps a bit more connective tissue between our city, its residents and the art.
So far, though, Koons has done his job. He has us debating seriously about art in Sacramento, and that’s quite rare.
What do you think of the Koons piece? Let us know in the comments. We’ll feature a round-up of community opinion in our April issue.