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Camel Contemplating a Needle, 2013

Plans to install a camel sculpture by John Baldessari at the new US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan have hit a bump—or, in this case, a hump—in the road. Unlike much of the art on display in US embassies, Camel Contemplating a Needle, 2013, was selected without an open competition or call for submissions because its reference to a common passage in the Bible and Qur’ran made it “uniquely qualified” to be shown in a primarily Muslim country, according to a State Department memopublished by Buzzfeed. But the Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz isn’t a fan. He called the $400,000 work “a questionable use of taxpayer resources” in a letter to the Secretary of State John Kerry on 1 April. Chaffetz, who chairs the Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, has asked the State Department to hand over documents related to all embassy art purchases since 2010. (Most purchases are funded through the Art in Embassies programme, which devotes less than 1% of the State Department’s construction budget to art purchases.) Chaffetz says that the department failed to demonstrate why the pricey Baledssari “is uniquely capable of fulfilling the agency’s needs”. It is too soon to tell whether his argument, like a camel’s hump, will hold any water. From In The Frame

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