Editorials

Four ways to look at the new Koons

The $8 million sculpture from world-renowned artist Jeff Koons has been the talk of the town since it was unwrapped Friday in Sacramento. The sculpture will be showcased at the downtown arena plaza.
The $8 million sculpture from world-renowned artist Jeff Koons has been the talk of the town since it was unwrapped Friday in Sacramento. The sculpture will be showcased at the downtown arena plaza. hamezcua@sacbee.com

1. Is this entertaining, or what? Like a burlesque queen behind a dressing room curtain, Sacramento’s most controversial public artwork is awaiting its close-up downtown. “Coloring Book #4”, the $8 million Jeff Koons sculpture, was installed last week outside Golden 1 Center. Drapes mostly hide it from view, for the moment. But that hasn’t stopped the arguing, complaining, cheering and debating over what will surely become a landmark.

2. Why is this outside an NBA arena? “Most teams put up statues of legends,” mourned a poster named “vifra” on Reddit. “We do [expletive deleted] Pikachu.” Actually the 18-foot sculpture was inspired by a child’s scribbling over a coloring book image of Piglet, not the cute Pokémon critter. But it’s not crazy to ask what “Coloring Book #4” has to do with the Sacramento Kings, who will play at the arena. Staples Center has statues of great athletes outside the home of the L.A. Clippers and Lakers. Portland’s Moda Center has a massive copper-and-steel crown, tilted on its side in a grassy median, a commentary on conquest and fleeting glory. We aren’t sure how the Kings and the Koons relate, other than that both are tall, bright, debatably amazing things for which rich guys paid millions. But the piece makes us smile, so we’re trying to roll with it.

3. Have we been ripped off? Hardly. A Koons sculpture similar to Sacramento’s sold at auction last year for $13.3 million. Most of our Koons’ was paid for by the Kings and team owners, and the public only kicked in $2.5 million from a public art fund. When local artists complained that the piece took up too much of the public art budget, philanthropists donated more to the kitty. Talk about your First World problems: Somebody laid museum quality art on us but we might not like it? The struggle is real, but knock it off.

4. So we should celebrate? Actually, Koons’ name for this series of artworks is “Celebration.” But even if you don’t like the piece, and some don’t, you have to admit that space is more welcoming than it used to be. The statue stands at what will be the entrance to Golden 1, on the Fifth Street side of the arena. It’s visible from J Street. Once, the only view there was of the Downtown Plaza, a shabby repository of – actually we’ve already forgotten what was in there. Clearance lingerie? Sneakers? Hot dogs on a stick at the food court? It’s not every day that a city can make up in scenery and ideas what it loses in mall space. And that’s just this week. Wait until those curtains come down later this month and we can see the whole thing.

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