While the form of the piece by Irish-born American artist Sean Scully isn’t identified in the award notification, the Weekly Standard said he’s produced granite sculptures before, including “Wall of Light Cubed 2” in 2008:
“This piece was purchased under the market price after considerable negotiation with both the artist and the gallery,” deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “This is an important part of our diplomatic presence overseas.”
Scully’s sculpture was purchased as part of the department’s Art in Embassies program and is to be installed at the new mission due to open in 2017, Yahoo News noted.
The program has “played a leading role in U.S. public diplomacy” for the past 50 years, Harf added.
Abstract artist Scully became an American citizen in 1983, resides in New York, and has twice been nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize, Yahoo News said.
“Where we can promote cross-cultural understanding… we think that’s a good use of our limited resources,” Harf added.
More from Yahoo News:
The State Department requested some $2.5 million for the 2013 program which is a public-private partnership involving 20,000 participants including artists, galleries and museums.
Separately, the daily Washington Times accused the diplomatic service of embarking on a September spending spree to buy $180,000 of alcohol for its embassies.
The splurge came just as the U.S. fiscal year was ending and a government shutdown began.
But Harf denied the State Department had been trying to use up its money before the end of the fiscal year, saying budget wrangling in Congress had held up its 2013 funds.