The Art in Embassies Program
By the end of the 1950’s the International Council in conjunction with efforts organized by Mrs. L. Corrin Strong and the Woodward Foundation were placing art in dozens of embassies around the world. To better organize this initiative the International Council created the Art in Embassies Project; a program to place artwork in embassies that demonstrated America’s artistic achievements as well as its interests in the visual arts. Artwork by Pollock, Calder, and Rothko were exhibited in embassies as well as foreign artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Paul Cezanne.
The State Department cooperated with the Art in Embassies Project, but there was rising concern over the political messages imbued by the artwork. In 1961, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State Robert H. Thayer wrote a report which discussed the dangers and benefits of the Art in Embassies Project for the State Department and outlined a government sponsored art in embassies program. The report went unnoticed for two years until it was brought to President Kennedy’s attention. As his last appointment before his assassination, President Kennedy named Nancy Kefauver as the head of the newly founded State Department Art in Embassies Program. Art projects and exhibitions continue to this day under the sponsorship of the Art in Embassies Program.The Department of State is preparing to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Art in Embassies Program in 2013, recalling the earliest efforts of the International Council in 1953 as its founding.