Arts & Theater

Controversial artist’s sculpture broke an auction record. Is his Golden 1 ‘Piglet’ now worth more?

See Coloring Book unveiled at Golden 1 Center

Artist Jeff Koons celebrates with local dignitaries as his colorful $8 million art piece is revealed to a cheering crowd of supporters on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 in Sacramento.
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Artist Jeff Koons celebrates with local dignitaries as his colorful $8 million art piece is revealed to a cheering crowd of supporters on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 in Sacramento.

Wednesday’s record-breaking sale of Jeff Koons’ steel “Rabbit” sculpture for $91.1 million has Sacramento residents taking another look at downtown’s very own Koons piece.

“Rabbit” was sold to Robert E. Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s father, setting a new record for the most expensive art piece by a living artist sold at auction, according to the Associated Press.

Koons previously set the same record in November 2013 for his “Balloon Dog (Orange),” which sold for $58.4 million, according to the New York Times.

Sacramento’s sculpture might not be worth quite as much as Koons’ 1986 metallic bunny, but it may have risen in value since his $8 million Piglet “Coloring Book” sculpture was unveiled by the Golden 1 Center in September 2016.

Lial Jones, director of the Crocker Art Museum, said the price of the downtown Koons piece likely would be affected by Wednesday’s big auction.

“Koons has been re-established as the living artist with the highest price paid for his work, so that of course will have some impact on the value of all of his art,” Jones said. “If a piece came up for auction from the ‘Coloring Book’ series right now, it’s not unreasonable to think that the price would go up. But just because one piece is worth (approximately) $91 million doesn’t mean others are.”

When the 18-foot-tall reflective sculpture – meant to imitate a child’s messy scribbles over linework of Winnie the Pooh character Piglet – was originally commissioned, many were skeptical of Koons’ pop-art style.

One woman, writing in a letter to the editor of The Sacramento Bee, called the piece “a big fat blunder for the sports arena.”

“Jeff Koons has without a doubt created art appropriate for dialogue, enjoyment and controversy,” Lisa Travers of Novato said in her letter, but added, “A Piglet? $8 million? New York-based? Oh, Pooh.”

In a review of Koons’ work, freelance Bee art critic Victoria Dalkey described one piece as “kitsch on a monumental level,” and characterized him as “essentially a commercial artist.”

Though the $8 million price tag turned off some residents, the bill was split between the city of Sacramento, the Kings and three Kings owners, and another Koons sculpture from the same “Coloring Book” series sold for $13.3 million in May 2015, just a couple months after Sacramento City Council approved the commission.

At the crowded council meeting that unanimously ratified the purchase, exactly half of the public comments regarding the Koons sculpture supported the installation while the other half vociferously opposed it.

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