State Department Spends $150,000 for Saudi Art Exhibition

by Jim Geraghty

There’s quite a bit of grumbling that the current budget deal does almost nothing to control federal spending.

But if you want to control spending, you need more than larger Republican majorities in Congress. You need cabinet secretaries who are thrifty, who are willing to go through their own budgets and conclude what’s really important and what isn’t.

Here’s how John Kerry’s State Department has been spending money lately:

I Could Have Built a ‘Black Arch’ out of Lego for $150, Tops

The U.S. State Department spent $150,000 to acquire the art exhibition “The Black Arch” by two Saudi sisters:

Raja Alem is a writer, Shadia Alem is a visual artist. For the exhibition, titled The Black Arch and curated by Mona Khazindar and Robin Start, the sisters worked closely together. The result is an installation that visually plays very much with darkness and light. It is about two visions of the world and about two cities, Mecca and Venice.

As the press release states: “The work is a stage, set to project the artists’ collective memory of Black — the monumental absence of colour — and physical representation of Black, referring to their past. The narrative is fueled by the inspirational tales told by their aunts and grandmothers, and are anchored in Mecca, where the sisters grew up in the 1970s. The experience with the physical presence of Black is striking for the artists as Raja explains, “I grew up aware of the physical presence of Black all around, the black silhouettes of Saudi women, the black cloth of the Al ka’ba and the black stone which supposedly is said to have enhanced our knowledge.” As a counter point, the second part of the installation is a mirror image, reflecting the present. These are the aesthetic parameters of the work.”

Your tax dollars at work!

UPDATE: I guess the Saudi work was a bargain, when you look at Jeryl Bier’s report that the State Department also spent,”$1,000,000 for a granite sculpture by Irish-born artist Sean Scully to be installed at the new U.S. Embassy in London.”

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