Marcos Bretón

Opinion: Just like red rabbit, Koons’ art will be signature for Sacramento

Councilman Steve Hansen holds up a piece of local art he purchased next to the smaller Jeff Koons piece he purchased at the Crocker Art Museum during council discussion of the proposed purchase of the Jeff Koons art piece on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at the Sacramento City Council meeting in Sacramento.
Councilman Steve Hansen holds up a piece of local art he purchased next to the smaller Jeff Koons piece he purchased at the Crocker Art Museum during council discussion of the proposed purchase of the Jeff Koons art piece on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at the Sacramento City Council meeting in Sacramento. jvillegas@sacbee.com

It was a fight worth having. Beyond disagreements over the purchase of an $8 million piece of art by the renowned Jeff Koons – a work to be displayed in front of the new downtown arena – a love of community was behind every expression of support or disdain.

When the Sacramento City Council, by a 7-0 vote, approved the purchase of Koons’ sculpture from his “Coloring Book” series, some local artists left disappointed. They had wanted local artists to be considered for the signature piece at the arena.

Some hated Koons’ work. Some thought it was too much money.

The bet here is that these feelings will fade with time.

Too often, art is judged unfairly. People condemn art in the moment when art is meant to last. Especially if art is big and bold and shown in large public spaces, people will figuratively throw rocks or sneer. They will call it ugly. They will say it’s a waste of money.

We’ve seen this before in Sacramento.

The signature piece of public art in the region, at least at the moment, is the red rabbit that greets travelers in Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport. I have to admit that I reacted negatively the first time I heard that they were hanging a 56-foot red rabbit in the busiest sector of the new airport terminal – over the escalator used by travelers and non-travelers alike.

But there I was Monday night, returning from a trip to Arizona. Happy to be home, it made me proud to walk through the beautiful public space that is Terminal B. That beauty is enhanced by community pride in the locally owned restaurants in the terminal that serve travelers from all over the world.

Then you get on that giant escalator and there it is: the red rabbit.

Every time I’m on that escalator I have the same ritual: I pull out my phone, snap a picture of the rabbit and post it on Facebook with the same words: “Home sweet home.”

At a cost of $800,000, that piece of artwork has been called a waste. It’s been called the world’s biggest piñata. It’s been called cheesy and tacky. It’s also popular, iconic, and I would bet it’s one of the most photographed objects in the Sacramento region.

I can’t explain it, but that rabbit says home to me. It was designed by Denver artist Lawrence Argent. The fact that it wasn’t designed by a local artist does not detract from its charm – and it doesn’t detract from the many features at the airport that are locally produced.

At this point, that rabbit says Sacramento. It’s no longer relevant – it never really was – that it was designed by a non-Sacramento artist. Sacramento is the city that was created by people from everywhere, people who fell in love with the town once they arrived.

That depth of feeling is secure enough to accept another big, bold piece of art – even if it is made by a guy from New York.

Call The Bee’s Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096.

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