United States taxpayers might spend $400,000 on a camel sculpture for the new American embassy being built in Islamabad, Pakistan.
The State Department outlined plans to buy the work—a life-size white fiberglass camel staring at a needle—in contracting records. Titled Camel Contemplating Needle, the sculpture was created by California artist John Baldessari.
Officials have justified the purchase on the grounds that the art is "uniquely qualified" to appear on the property of a U.S. government building in Pakistan.
"Public art which will be presented in the new embassy should reflect the values of a predominantly Islamist country," according to a four-page document.
Both the Bible and the Quran use the metaphor of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. Baldessari's work alludes to the biblical saying that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.