Installation of art by Nick Cave at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal (Photo: Michael JN Bowles)
Sometimes a work of art can be as effective at creating international good will as the most experienced diplomat. For five decades, the collections and exhibitions curated by the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies (AIE) program have contributed to that phenomenon.
The Museum of Modern Art first envisioned this global visual arts program in 1953, and President John F. Kennedy formalized it at the U.S. Department of State a decade later. Today, AIE curates as many as 60 exhibitions and artist exchanges each year in American diplomatic facilities throughout the world.
AIE is a public–private partnership engaging more than 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors, and encompasses more than 200 venues in 189 countries. Since 2004, more than 160 artists have traveled to countries participating in AIE’s exchange programs and collaborated with local artists to produce works now on display in embassies and consulates.
Virginia Shore, AIE’s acting director and chief curator, provides an overview of how art is chosen for the program and how using art in diplomacy can transcend national borders and foster international connections.
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Watch as Chicago artist Nick Cave narrates a mini-documentary about the creation of a stunning large-scale wall sculpture—primarily constructed from beads and pipe cleaners—for the new American embassy in Dakar. Cave collaborated with Senegalese artists in completing the project, for which program speaker Virginia Shore served as one of the curators.