This exactly what happened to me when I learned about the 750,000 euros the Flemish people paid for the 2006 water sculpture Diepe Fontein which reflects the façade of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts when full.
A fraction of the money spent (I cannot remember the exact details but if I remember well the proportion was about 10%) was used for the actual production of the piece. The majority of the money went to Spanish contemporary artist Cristina Iglesias (1956, San Sebastián, Spain) who was primarily rewarded for her intellectual property.
This article by Prof. Paul Ilegems (born 1946, curator of the Friet-museum in Antwerp) has the best description of the work. It mentions that the idea to invite Iglesias to design this work was by architect Hilde Daems, together with Paul Robbrecht and Marie-José Van Hee who had been at that time responsible for the re-design of the Leopold De Waelplaats. Ilegems mentions how the work is huftervrij, which is a Dutch term that translates as shitheadproof and denotes vandal proof. Vandalism is a big problem in public space art and it has been of recent interest in Antwerpen. Cel Crabeels’s article on the destruction of Dan Graham’s public space artwork Funhouse for Children (1998) on the Antwerp Sint – Jansplein documents this.
As I mentioned before, the main gripe I have with the work of art is not necessarily the price of it, but the fact that only a small fraction of the cost was for the actual production of the work. I specifically want to compare Diepe Fontein to another 2006 work of art, even if the work I am referring to was ‘only’ an ephemeral performance by a French company who is called Royale de Luxe. They produce the best piece of street theatre I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing: The Sultan’s Elephant. Its performance cost the Antwerp municipality 800,000 euros but the majority of it went to the actual performance (which lasted three days and were extravagant and deeply moving), not just a concept. I saw grown men and women weep with joy and awe. Watch it here if they did not come to your town last summer.