$400,000 in U.S. taxpayer money will be used to fund a camel statue in Pakistan. The State Department claims to have limited funds, and is cutting money for all kinds of programs right and left, and yet, according to a government document obtained by the website Buzzfeed, the United States government has an extra $400,000 laying around to pay for a large, 500 pound statue of a camel staring into the eye of a needle to be erected in front of the US Embassy in Pakistan. The metaphor the statue represents can be found in both the Quran and the Bible. It symbolizes how difficult it is for the wealthy to get into heaven.
The person handling the deal between the government and the artist has called the statue’s price “very reduced” and seemed to indicate that $400,000 is a bargain-basement deal because the artist makes one of-a-kind sculptures. The dealer, Steven Beyer, explained that the art world and market sets the prices for such pieces and that the artist is famous. The sculptor is an American artist named John Anthony Baldessari.
The statue is an exact replica of an already existing statue in the United States, so the $400,000 artwork is not an original. The existing piece is located in Napa Valley. The State Department claims that the artist is “uniquely qualified” to provide the statue, and that the sculpture represents the “values of an Islamic country.”
In the document obtained by Buzzfeed and titled Justification for Other Than Fair and Open Competition, the State Department extensively quotes Wikipedia as its source for information on Baldessari. That excerpt explains that he is a very well known artist who started out as a painter and whose works are influential in the art world.
The document goes on to say that the artwork’s price is “fair and reasonable.” It seems that according to the State Department, the average U.S. taxpayer should understand the expenditure of $400,000 on a camel statue to be erected in Pakistan because the price is discounted from what it would fetch on the open market. Baldessari’s previous work, the State Department points out, sold for over 4 million dollars at an auction recently.
Reaction on social media has been, perhaps unsurprisingly, very negative toward the State Department and its justification for spending nearly half a million dollars on the statue. One Facebook commenter said “There is fraud and kickback written all over this sucker,” a comment that seems to indicate that perhaps someone involved in the transaction may have a financial incentive to participate.
One Facebook commenter gave an inside view of U.S. spending in Pakistan, and what she had to say was not flattering to the U.S. government:
As an American living in Pakistan, I will never understand half the crap the US pays for here. We spend millions (I’m not even kidding) of dollars on ads that say, “We are spending money to brighten your futures! A gift from the American people.”
Do you know how they “brighten futures?”
1) Clothing exhibitions for clothes already available at a cheaper rate in Lahore.
2) Photography competitions for kids.
3) “Donations” that end up buying corrupt politicians’ Lamborghinis.
4) More frivolous stuff that the average Pakistani already has access to.
I am all for helping countries in need but this country does not need to be spoon fed USAID while people back home have a tough time making ends meet. You know what’s the kicker? They hate the US unless they’re offered a way to get there. Hypocrites.
However, there was some support for the camel statue on Facebook. One commenter said that he is originally from Pakistan and living in America, and he supports the U.S. government giving aid to Pakistan. In response to the comment above, he explains:
The reason all you see is clothing exhibitions and photography competitions is because you have seen only an isolated segment of the society from one of the more developed cities(Islamabad, Lahore or Karachi i presume?). The harsh reality is that Pakistan is a broken country where poverty is rampant and ignorance is widespread. Slavery continues to this very day and children die of hunger. USAID helps a lot and please do not belittle their contributions.
$400,000 in US taxpayer money will be spent to fund the erection of a camel statue in Pakistan. According to the State Department, this expenditure is very small compared to their overall spending budget, representing about half of one percent of what they spend on typical projects involving construction.
By: Rebecca Savastio