How Did a $5.5M Public Art Project Become $9.5M?

  The Story Behind The Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center Jeff Koons Art Acquisition

Jeff Koons Sculpture
Koons sculpture

(c) Jeff Koons "Coloring Book #4" Photo Credit: TheGirlsNY,

For all of you basketball fans, I have to ask: are you also pretty into art?  I hope so, of course, as I believe public art is important to everyone.

In any case, the City of Sacramento’s Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission (SMAC) was in charge of selecting the public art for the new Sacramento Kings arena when it was being built in 2016.

The City’s budget was $5.5 million.  That was the public art requirement amount, as the arena was a publicly funded project.

However, Sacramento artist Marcy Friedman and her son Mark Friedman, who was the arena’s developer, had recently visited artist Jeff Koons’ studio in New York shortly before the selection process had really begun. Coincidentally, Marcy Friedman was on SMAC’s panel to find the new art piece.

Apparently, Koons’ Gagosian Gallery heard that the City of Sacramento was looking for a public art piece and reached out to the Kings majority owner, Vivek Ranadivé, about a new piece by Koons that would be perfect.

Ranadivé told Mark Friedman the exciting news, and Mark and Marcy both loved the idea.

Ranadivé and two of the minority owners each offered to make up the shortfall at $1 million per person if the City would buy the piece and not go through an RFP process.

The arena cost more than $550 million to construct, so the $3 million art donation wasn’t their biggest bill for the project and its approval process.

The selected Koons piece, “Coloring Book #4,” is a silhouette of Piglet from the Winnie the Pooh coloring book.  The 11,000 pound, 18-foot high sculpture is made out of colorized highly-reflective stainless steel.

After a big City Council meeting, where people fought hard on both sides, the City unanimously approved the acquisition.

So, okay.  Now we’re at $8 million.

How did the $8 million price tag for public are become $9.5 million?

Well, Koons lives between New York City and his Pennsylvania home town.

When word got out about the planned acquisition, the local art community in Sacramento lost their minds.

These local artists got all over social media and created an uproar, complaining about the fact there was no open process, and that the City of Sacramento didn’t need to go to New York to find good artists.

The social media campaign went viral and became loud enough to get everyone’s attention. I imagine it was a bit uncomfortable for those involved in the decision.

So, Marcy Friedman donated an additional $1 million and the City put in an additional $500,000 to find local artists to do additional pieces in and around the arena.

The other art pieces done by the local artists are pretty fabulous, by the way.  My favorite artwork of all of them is artist Gale Hart’s “Missing the Mark” with a target, and giant darts implanted in the sidewalk outside the arena.

And Koons work is iconic, which was what SMAC and the Kings owners had in mind.

All in all, it’s a great story, but there’s a moral to the tale.

When deciding on public art, one must remember to consider the public!!