An Introduction to Art in Embassies


PEDRO REYES: The idea is that because it is
about cultural diplomacy it’s very important, not only what you have to say, but also what
you are — ought to hear. So what this is, is the ear . It’s basically the inner-ear. You know that
has this kind of coil. Art is something that should allow people to talk, but not about
the piece but just to talk about larger aspects of life. Mission accomplished, almost. It’s
not that it’s about this piece of metal here; it’s about the – all the discussions that
are yet to come. Yeah. NICK CAVE: With the Art in Embassies project,
I think about myself as a cultural ambassador. I really want to find ways to matter in the
world. KIKI SMITH: Putting out what I’ve devoted
my life to in a situation that represents my country is, you know for me, a great honor.
Culture is our greatest asset, and it’s what we have the most to offer and share with the
culture and the creativity of other parts of the world. JEFF KOONS: Representing your nation is very
very meaningful and it’s something that you take with a great sense of responsibility
because when you go on your journey of art, you start to get an understanding of the power
of art. It’s a very very powerful tool. JIM DRAIN: It’s a privilege to be a citizen
of America, to be a part of this long history that our embassies have established. Immediately
I saw how amazing the program was. You know, it wasn’t just about placing works; it was
about this exchange with different cultures through the embassy. GRAHAM CALDWELL: In Ukrainian craft, there’s
this really intricate lacework in my world and in this piece there’s a similar kind of
intense, complex, repetition. JOHN TEFFT: We have the opportunity here to
show American artists, but also Ukrainian artists. JEFF KOONS: I was thrilled to go to China
last spring and I went to the American Embassy and participated in a cultural exchange, and
I met with Bejing artists. This type of interaction — that’s what’s exciting about the cultural
exchange part of the Art in Embassies program. MARGARET BOOZER: You can think about the embassy
being a little part of one country in another country — that this is literally Maryland
clay and it’s earth from Maryland that is going over to Djibouti, and it’s going to
live there in the US Embassy. JIM DRAIN: My project involved making a sculpture
for the embassy in Rabat, Morocco, and we did it collaboratively with students at RISD.
The students and I, we really – coming from the same place of like exploring what it meant
to make an artwork for an embassy and what a cultural exchange meant. MAYA FREELON ASANTE: We are here at the US
Embassy in Madagascar where I’ve just completed my installation “Unbuntu.” This work has been
around the world, but now has got a final resting place and home here in Madagascar. JEFF KOONS: The way art makes automatically
connections. It makes cultural connections, and these connections go past borders and
past times. The Art in Embassies program complements very well the work that’s taking place within
embassies to — to bring cultures together. So it’s not just that it’s this American art,
but it’s a celebration and a joy — a uniting joy of what it means to be a human. It’s this
activity of defining what our possibilities can be and the — the sharing of that, which
transcends cultures.

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