In a post worthy of Fox News, Buzzfeed has worked itself into a lather about a John Baldessari sculpture of a camel contemplating a needle. The sculpture was purchased by the State Department for a cut rate of $400,000, and is earmarked for the US embassy in Islamabad, where, Buzzfeed righteously reports, the “average yearly income in impoverished Pakistan is about $1,250 per year.”
Ah yes: there are poor people in the world, therefore US embassies shouldn’t have any art. The Art Newspaper reports that the Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz called the camel “a questionable use of taxpayer resources” in a letter to the Secretary of State John Kerry on 1 April. Apparently Chaffetz, who chairs the Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, wants all documents related to embassy art purchases since 2010. Because it matters for National Security.
OK, whatever: it’s another fabricated uproar on a slow news day. Buried in all this is the charming fact that the STATE DEPARTMENT wants this sculpture, a wonderfully deadpan reference to the famous observation (found in both the New Testament and the Qur’an) about rich people getting into heaven. Forget all the noise about the art program for embassies (which comprises 0.5% of their construction budgets for new projects, the horror!) Let’s celebrate the fact that somewhere, deep in the bowels of State, there’s a functionary with an eye for great American art who wants to share it with the world.
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