We have seen this done on a few other sites so we figured we would try it out ourselves.
First take the interesting owl statue you got for free but is a little too 70's looking.
Clean the surface well to get rid of all the dust and oils from hands touching it. I used Mineral Spirits but rubbing alcohol will work well too. Be sure to use a cleaner that will evaporate quickly and not something that will leave any kind of residue that will mess up your paint job.
If the statue is not painted you will need to prime it. However, ours was so we were lazy and skipped the priming.
Apply 3-4 light coats of flat white spray paint. It's better to do light coats in order to prevent runs in your paint.
Let things dry and step back and enjoy your new modern looking statue. It almost looks like it came from the Jonathan Adler store.
Be seeing you.