The New York Times uses Dorothea Rockburne’s new mural as lead in to the program to feature American artists in our embassies around the world:
For most people around the world, American culture pours out of a television or movie screen. Yet Ms. Rockburne’s painting is part of another means — less known and more highbrow — of exposing American art to foreign eyes. She is one of hundreds of prominent and accomplished artists who have either donated or been commissioned to create art for the scores of new American embassies, consulates, residences and other buildings that have been opened in every part of the globe during the last decade.
For the next two months, visitors to the museum can watch Ms. Rockburne’s team at work. After that the canvas will be rolled up and sent to Kingston, and the wall on which the mural hangs will be torn down as construction on a new museum extension begins. […]
the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, a nonprofit group that works with the State Department to create and donate custom-made artwork for American outposts abroad. In 2001, the foundation gathered 245 pieces of art for State Department buildings worldwide; it has also commissioned more than a dozen large installations like Ms. Rockburne’s.
The foundation, which has an art advisory committee whose chairman is Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art, has curated some significant pieces, but the vast majority of the art is provided — through loans, acquisitions and commissions — through the department’s own ART in Embassies program, created in the early 1960s to promote cultural diplomacy.
The past decade has been particularly busy. Ever since 1998, when terrorist bombs struck the American Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the United States has been building or renovating its foreign outposts. In the last eight years, the department has built 68 new facilities and has another 28 under design and construction, said Jonathan Blyth, Director of External Affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. To keep up with the demand, ART expanded its mission in 2005, seeking to acquire new works by both American and host country artists. Since then works have been installed in about 30 embassies, according to Virginia Shore, the chief curator and acting director of the program. […]
The amount of money allotted for each building is calculated with a formula based on the gross square footage, Ms. Shore said. Maya Lin, the architect who created the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, was one of 28 American and Chinese artists the program asked to create work for the American Embassy in Beijing, which opened last summer. ART has about $4.5 million to spend each year for its permanent collections, though the collection is valued at many times that amount. “Dealers and artists all really work with us,” Ms. Shore said. The art in Beijing, for example, cost about $800,000, she said, but has been appraised at $30 million. The total value of art on loan to the embassy program is estimated at $200 million.
Employing Art at American Embassies (New York Times)