U.S. Embassies Acquire Huge Art
The American Embassy in London will soon have a new art installation, which some onlookers might mistake for a pile of granite construction materials
The U.S. Department of State will spend $2.5 million in 2014 on art to decorate its embassies, it was revealed in its online bulletin.
Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are happy to see interesting artworks in official American buildings overseas.
The agency's 2013 spending included $1 million for a single granite sculpture set to adorn the new American Embassy in London.
These federal expenditures are part of the State Department's 'Art In Embassies' program, which has 16 government employees curating art exhibits at diplomatic stations all over the world.
The State Department writes that the program 'provides exhibitions to represent American art abroad.' Of note is a $1 million art award which will go to Sean Scully, an Irish-born artist who emigrated to the U.S. at age 30, and whose work resembles stacked piles of paving stones..
Sean Scully's 2008 granite sculpture, titled 'Wall of Light Cubed 2,' shown here, suggests the kind of structure the State Department thought was worth $1 million
The huge granite sculpture will sit in the U.S. Embassy in London
Scully's 'Wall of Light' series of paintings are popular at Sotheby's auction house in London, and regularly fetch five- and six-figure prices.
Scully's paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures all resemble tiled mosaics of oversized rectangles of different colors. One sculpture consisted of a checkerboard of black and white stone squares forming a 10-meter-long wall.
Another is a 20-meter-long assemblage of criss-crossed bricks, sitting in a field as part of someone's 'private collection.'
Scully, 68, is a two-time Turner Prize nominee and very much the 'it' artist to collect in London
Embassy Luxury Expenses
The presence of American art exhibitions overseas builds strategic international partnerships. State claimed in its 2014 budget request to Congress, providing an "exchange of ideas' that 'encourages strong bilateral and multilateral relationships."
It's a program that has cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $9.6 million since 2011.
Along other lines, State Department spent nearly $200K on liquor in the month before the government shutdown in October, along with finalizing a $5million order for custom crystal wine glasses for American embassies.
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is presiding over a State Department budget with a line-item for its own private art collection.
The State Department's current art-acquisition list also includes spending $120,000 for 'Flowers,' a gangly bronze sculpture by Donald Baechler. That piece will be sent to the new U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.
The agency also bought a $150,000 tile mosaic mural from the Miotto Mosaic Art Studio in Carmel, NY for the American Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil.
Another $150,000 purchase, earmarked for the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, consists of 'The Black Arch' by the Saudi Arabian writer Raja Alem and artist Shadia Alem.
The State Department told The Weekly Standard that its 'Office of Art in Embassies' has been in service for 50 years and covers 200 venues in 189 countries.
Art pieces, the agency said, are sometimes purchased to 'comply with host city planning requirements that art be incorporated within the design scheme and displayed in public spaces.'