DoD Spending $600,000 on Sculpture of Fairy Riding Toad

Department of Defense (DOD) employees moving into a new building this fall may start their days walking past a sculpture of a toad with a ten-foot fairy on its back.

Your tax dollars at work:

Department of Defense (DOD) employees moving into a new building this fall may start their days walking past a sculpture of a toad with a ten-foot fairy on its back. Federal facilities have never been renowned for their challenging public art, but critics have gone on the offensive since it was revealed that the piece, one of four finalists for the site’s installation, would cost $400,000-$600,000 and would be viewed largely by the same group of about 2,500 employees each day.

Granting that the psychic value of seeing a toad with a ten-foot fairy on its back on a daily basis on the nation’s security is incalculable, the price seems a tad high.

The story seems to have started circling in late March, and this version of the story at US News makes me wonder if it’s not some bizarre April Fool’s joke:

A $600,000 frog sculpture that lights up, gurgles “sounds of nature” and carries a 10-foot fairy girl on its back could soon be greeting Defense Department employees who plan to start working at the $700 million Mark Center in Alexandria, Va. this fall.

But the Alexandria News, which broke the story March 30th, was still running stories on this April 2.

Via Christian Bleuer, who quips, “To be fair to the DoD, giants toads being ridden by fairies are probably more deploy-able than the F-22”

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Vast Variety says:

    Yes, that stone toad is breaking our Federal budget.

    /end sarcasm.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Hey, $600,000 here, $600,000 there — it adds up. Granted, this is probably more useful than firing a Tomahawk in support of one side of the Libya civil war. But geez.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    I hope this becomes the $25K toilet seat of our time. The DOD needs really, really serious and substantial cuts. And the wars it fights must be brought into the budget. Anything that promotes public outrage could serve as a catalyst.

  4. Tano says:

    You know, it might be nice to get the title correct. The sculpture is one of four finalists – no decision has been made yet – as is clear in the article. So your title is false, but I guess it more important that it serve to attract the eyeballs???

  5. dan the dan says:

    Did anyone notice, it’s also ugly.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Obviously 600k isn’t going to balance the budget.

    The problem is that taxpayers see something like this and think, “So I paid taxes like a good citizen and got a stone toad?”

    We want to think — especially at this fraught time of year — that we’re paying for something necessary. This kind of nonsense makes us feel like suckers. I want to think I blew up a Libyan tank or helped find bodies in Japan or provided medical care to a vet. I don’t want to think I’m an art patron with bad taste.

  7. Franklin says:

    Looks like plenty of scrap metal that they could melt down and make something useful with. Given the price, I assume those wings are pure gold.

  8. charles says:

    When the democrats tell you that there isn’t a dime to be cut in the budget, just remember that this contest for a statue is happening all over. This isn’t the only completely wasteful piece of spending.

    Sure, sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of art — when you have some extra money to spend. I don’t think a family trying not to default on their mortgage, and falling behind on their credit card bills, is going to be spending money on a lawn sculpture.

  9. MarkedMan says:

    Charles, I’m not arguing with your point above, exactly, but there are laws on the books that demand a certain percentage of any government building project has to be spent on artwork. And before the commentariat here starts talking about ‘liberals and their laws’, bear in mind that budget items on art in general has a very broad political consensus. There may be more Repubs than Dems trying to stuff an opera house rehabilitation line item in the next budget. Now, if you want to make the case for getting rid of them, well, this progressive will heartily join you.

  10. Lee says:

    In the DoD’s defense, there may be some wacky code requiring “art.” If you don’t shell out XX% of your total cost in “art,” the state takes it out of your hide in an “art mitigation fee.” Which is usually twice as high as they are requiring you spend on “art.” At least that is what is true in the land of fruits and nuts, California. Some wacky legislator in Virginia may have brought it there and passed it, tagged on to a bill to help widows and orphans.

    Thanks to this nonsense in California, way too much money was spent in Livermore on misspelling authors’ names for a mosaic and way too much money was spent in Berkeley on a sculpture with dogs humping.

    Sometimes, just to get rid of the headache, the “Owner’s Representative” just hands the job over to an overpaid “art consultant” without really paying too much attention to what is happening. The OR is too busy making sure that the light weight concrete is light weight, that the BIM drawings line up, that the GC is trying to rip them off… to pay too much attention to whatever the hell the “art consultant” is doing… And I think the “art consultant” just gives the job to his cousin… And lo! Now there is a fairy on a frog at the DoD…

  11. Brian Hess says:

    Deep cuts into the DOD is not a great idea, but regulating how it spends its money is an excellent one. Meanwhile, as the liberals spend money on faeries (and it might add to the “don’t ask don’t tell stigmata”) and giant toads, one could only hope that it was a starving artist that they paid to do this. . . . . fat chance. . . . . .

    Meanwhile, China sends NAVAL VESSELS INTO THE MEDITERRANIAN OCEAN FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY!!!!!! And unveal their very own super-carrier–breaking the US monopoly on naval aviation technologies. . . . . and we owe China how many billions of dollars? So unless this is a very magical faery that can make money appear out of thin air and pay for itself, I suggest that the DoD pull it’s head out of it’s pompous ass and spend money on things that count, like our natioan soverienty and security. Else, we lay in a bed–or casket–draped in red with a hammer and sickle. . . . .

    liberals=communists without guns=passively progressive politicians.

    Tea Party. . . where are you while this is going on? Democrats, move to China, you’ll love it there.

  12. matt says:

    liberals=communists without guns=passively progressive politicians.

    You’re an idiot.. Completely an idiot.

    The carriers you are talking about are two conventionally powered carriers that are half the size of Nimitz carriers (which are being replaced by even bigger and more powerful carriers). The first Chinese nuclear powered carrier is scheduled to be completed sometime after 2020. By that point our first Gerald R. Ford carrier (cvn-79) will be well on it’s way to being completed at the cost of roughly $14 billion dollars (each succeeding carrier will be roughly $9 billion each). Naturally those costs are subject to change and generally that change is upwards.

  13. Southern Hoosier says:

    There was this wonderful bust of Sir Winston Churchill that would of looked good in the new building.

  14. T says:

    How about a compromise: a five-foot fairy for $300,000

  15. Southern Hoosier says:

    At lest it was a toad and not a pig. If it had been a pig, then we really would have wasted $600,000. Since a pig is offense to Muslims, the statue would have to be melted down. After all we don’t want to offend Muslims and put our troops in danger.

  16. Southern Hoosier says:

    James, shame on you. You left the most important thing out of the story.

    Controversy Erupts Over Defense Department’s Terrible $600,000 Magical Toad Art

    It is a magical toad. No wonder it cost so much more than a plain toad.

    Given the uproar around Foster’s “$600,000 Gurgling Toad” (as U.S. News and World Report dubbed it), we are guessing that it will not get the final vote. That leaves a sculpture and wall-piece by Linda DePalma based on the form of the Virginia Magnolia; an abstract mural based on the patterns of sound waves, by Heidi Lippman; and a “functional artistic bench” from Deirdre Saunder. Stay tuned.

    OK so it is a gurgling magical toad. But the poor toad’s future is not a done deal. Considering some of these other entries, I think I’ll go with the toad.

    It looks like all the finalist are women. Just more chickification of the Pentagon. Where are the Soviets when you need them? They knew how to make heroic statutes.