Hillary Clinton will give five artists medals for embassy art
The honors will go to Jeff Koons, Cai Guo-Qiang, Shahazia Sikander, Kiki Smith and Carrie Mae Weems.
By Mike Boehm
November 30, 2012
For 50 years the U.S. State Department has been deploying visual art as part of the art of diplomacy, via a program called Art in Embassies.
On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give the U.S. State Department Medal of Arts to five artists who have shown “an enduring commitment” to the effort: Jeff Koons, Cai Guo-Qiang, Shahazia Sikander, Kiki Smith and Carrie Mae Weems.
It’s the first time the award has been given – and its future will likely depend on whether Clinton’s successors want to make it a tradition.
The State Department uses art to generate goodwill in foreign countries by organizing temporary exhibitions and other art events at U.S. embassies and ambassadors’ residences. The exhibitions are group efforts, featuring artists from the host countries as well as Americans.
Staff curators for Art in Embassies stock the shows with loans from artists, collectors and museums. Since 2000, the program has gotten into the art-acquisition business as well, picking works to permanently adorn newly built embassies and consulates.
For the new U.S. embassy in Beijing, which opened in 2008, Koons provided one of his huge “Tulips” sculptures to stand outside as a 10-year loan. It’s identical to one that fetched $30.7 million earlier this month when it was auctioned by Christie’s in New York City.
The art inside the Beijing Embassy includes “Eagle Landing on Pine Branch,” one of Cai Guo-Qiang’s images scorched on paper with gunpowder. After the honors luncheon at the State Department, Cai is scheduled to use his explosive fireworks technique to light up a 40-foot pine tree outside the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art.
The intended effect is a tree image in floating black smoke that will serve as an ethereal doppelganger for the real one. In downtown L.A. last April, Cai scorched a work called “Mystery Circle” onto an exterior wall of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary building.
US Secretary Hillary Clinton to visit Belfast
The White House has confirmed that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to visit Northern Ireland.
She will travel to Belfast on 7 December to meet officials as well as discuss the peace process and investment opportunities.
The visit, part of a four-day trip that will also take in Dublin, the Czech Republic and Belgium, could be one of her last foreign engagements.
Her term ends next month, and she has said she does not want a second term.
Mrs Clinton, who visited Northern Ireland three times with her husband, former US president Bill Clinton, during the 1990s, plans to discuss the trilateral US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership and economic opportunities for Northern Ireland.
Later Mrs Clinton will take part in an event hosted by The Ireland Funds – a global fundraising network supporting programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education, and community development in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Her journey to Belfast will follow a host of engagements in the Republic. In Dublin she is expected at a ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and will discuss areas of co-operation in promoting peace, human rights, and economic growth with Irish officials to discuss.
She is due to deliver a major speech on US achievements in support of human rights globally.
Mr and Mrs Clinton visited Northern Ireland three times during his time in office from 1993 and 2001.
The most memorable was in 1995 when they turned on the Christmas lights in Belfast just a year after the first IRA ceasefire.
Mrs Clinton has also come to Northern Ireland without her husband.
In 1999 she gave a keynote address to a women’s conference and in October 1997 gave the Tip O’Neill Memorial lecture at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus in Londonderry.
She has also addressed the Northern Ireland Assembly.