City Beat

Panel focuses vision for public art at new Sacramento arena

The city of Sacramento and the Sacramento Kings have an agreement to buy an $8 million sculpture from world-renowned artist Jeff Koons. The sculpture would be showcased within the downtown arena plaza.
The city of Sacramento and the Sacramento Kings have an agreement to buy an $8 million sculpture from world-renowned artist Jeff Koons. The sculpture would be showcased within the downtown arena plaza. Sacramento Kings

The public art vision for the new downtown Sacramento arena is coming into focus.

A panel of local artists and designers agreed Wednesday to seek proposals for public art at up to four sites at the arena complex.

One location is definite: the art panel will seek proposals for an LED installation on a screen on the arena’s exterior, near the building’s main entrance. That artwork would likely share screen time with advertisements.

The panel also will seek submissions for three other sites, including the “gateway” entrances to the arena plaza at Fifth and J streets and Fifth and L Streets, as well as a 50-foot tall escalator well inside the arena. At least two of those three locations will be chosen.

Shelly Willis, director of the arts commission, said she plans to release a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for local artists by the end of this month. Finalists will be chosen for each art location at the arena, and the winning artists are expected to be signed by this fall.

The arena art panel, made up of local artists, philanthropists and designers, will eventually design a precise budget for each art installation. The panel has an overall budget of $1.5 million for local art, including a $1 million donation from local art patron Marcy Friedman, who is one of the panelists.

That budget comes out of a total $9.5 million spending plan for arena art. The other $8 million is being used to commission a sculpture by renowned artist Jeff Koons that will stand near the main entrance to the arena on the building’s northwest corner.

The city and the Kings were obligated to commit at least $5.5 million to arena art under the city’s Art in Public Places program, which requires at least 2 percent of construction budgets for public projects be spent on art. The $477 million arena’s construction budget is roughly $270 million.

Preliminary budget figures show the art installations at the entrances to the arena plaza could cost up to $450,000 apiece. The LED graphic display on the arena façade could cost around $250,000, and an art piece inside the arena suspended above a large escalator might cost around $300,000. Those prices could change if the panel wants to commission art in all four spots.

Rob Rothblatt, the arena architect, said a large piece of art inside the arena could be visible from the public plaza.

“The Koons piece is the high drama, but something on the inside of comparable draw, comparable scale and comparable drama might create a nice relationship,” said Annabeth Rosen, an art professor at UC Davis and one of the arena art panelists.

The amount of art at the arena may expand beyond the four sites discussed Wednesday. Rothblatt said the Kings have told the city they are having difficulty finding tenants for a strip of planned retail space facing L Street, beneath a terrace leading into the arena. He said art along that stretch could activate the area.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.

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