An Introduction to Art in Embassies

A brief overview of Art in Embassies and cultural diplomacy

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0:01 PEDRO REYES: The idea is that because it is about cultural diplomacy it’s very important,
0:07 not only what you have to say, but also what you are — ought to hear. So what this is,
0:15 is the ear .
0:21 It’s basically the inner-ear. You know that has this kind of coil. Art is something that
0:30 should allow people to talk, but not about the piece but just to talk about larger aspects
0:36 of life. Mission accomplished, almost. It’s not that it’s about this piece of metal here;
0:47 it’s about the – all the discussions that are yet to come. Yeah.
0:56 NICK CAVE: With the Art in Embassies project, I think about myself as a cultural ambassador.
1:07 I really want to find ways to matter in the world.
1:14 KIKI SMITH: Putting out what I’ve devoted my life to in a situation that represents
1:21 my country is, you know for me, a great honor. Culture is our greatest asset, and it’s what
1:29 we have the most to offer and share with the culture and the creativity of other parts
1:35 of the world.
1:36 JEFF KOONS: Representing your nation is very very meaningful and it’s something that you
1:41 take with a great sense of responsibility because when you go on your journey of art,
1:47 you start to get an understanding of the power of art. It’s a very very powerful tool.
1:52 JIM DRAIN: It’s a privilege to be a citizen of America, to be a part of this long history
1:57 that our embassies have established. Immediately I saw how amazing the program was. You know,
2:05 it wasn’t just about placing works; it was about this exchange with different cultures
2:09 through the embassy.
2:12 GRAHAM CALDWELL: In Ukrainian craft, there’s this really intricate lacework in my world
2:21 and in this piece there’s a similar kind of intense, complex, repetition.
2:25 JOHN TEFFT: We have the opportunity here to show American artists, but also Ukrainian
2:32 artists.
2:33 JEFF KOONS: I was thrilled to go to China last spring and I went to the American Embassy
2:39 and participated in a cultural exchange, and I met with Bejing artists. This type of interaction
2:46 — that’s what’s exciting about the cultural exchange part of the Art in Embassies program.
2:52 MARGARET BOOZER: You can think about the embassy being a little part of one country in another
2:56 country — that this is literally Maryland clay and it’s earth from Maryland that is
3:03 going over to Djibouti, and it’s going to live there in the US Embassy.
3:07 JIM DRAIN: My project involved making a sculpture for the embassy in Rabat, Morocco, and we
3:13 did it collaboratively with students at RISD. The students and I, we really – coming from
3:20 the same place of like exploring what it meant to make an artwork for an embassy and what
3:27 a cultural exchange meant.
3:29 MAYA FREELON ASANTE: We are here at the US Embassy in Madagascar where I’ve just completed
3:35 my installation “Unbuntu.” This work has been around the world, but now has got a final
3:39 resting place and home here in Madagascar.
3:43 JEFF KOONS: The way art makes automatically connections. It makes cultural connections,
3:52 and these connections go past borders and past times. The Art in Embassies program complements
3:58 very well the work that’s taking place within embassies to — to bring cultures together.
4:06 So it’s not just that it’s this American art, but it’s a celebration and a joy — a uniting
4:14 joy of what it means to be a human. It’s this activity of defining what our possibilities
4:22 can be and the — the sharing of that, which transcends cultures.