CNN has a little tape of State Department spokesman Marie Harf defending the art in embassies program that BuzzFeed stirred the pot over. In this case, it’s a John Baldessari work that Erin Burnett loves because she’s got a fixation on camels. (Not that you really needed to know that.) Here’s CNN on Harf’s defense:
She emphasized the total spent on art at new embassies amounts to just 0.5% of the embassy’s total construction budget.
The Art in Embassies program was started in the 1960s to showcase American art around the world, and also features pieces from local host-country artists.
According to the State Department, over 58 permanent collections have been displayed at embassies and ambassadors’ residences, and dozens of temporary exhibitions are shipped every year under the program.
Over $300 million worth of art is also on loan to diplomatic facilities by the artists themselves, according to Harf.
“Obviously, we believe very strongly in the Art in Embassies program,” she said. “We think it fosters cultural connections.”
The contract to build the embassy compound in Islamabad totaled $699 million when it was announced in October 2010.