How much would you pay for a fiberglass camel sculpture? Probably less than the State Department, which is planning to blow $400,000 on one for a new American embassy being built in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Buzzfeed reports that contracting records show the life-size white camel is a work by American artist John Baldessari.
Officials explained the decision to purchase the piece of art, titled “Camel Contemplating Needle,” in a four-page document justifying a “sole source” procurement. “This artist’s product is uniquely qualified,” the document explains. “Public art which will be presented in the new embassy should reflect the values of a predominantly Islamist country,” it says. (Like the Bible, the Qur’an uses the metaphor of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.)
The State Department is defending the $400,000 price tag and said they got it at a “very reduced price.”
In a statement, State Department press spokeswoman 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.
Here’s the full contracting record: