Welcome, everyone! I’m very happy to have you all here this afternoon to view the innovative and imaginative American art that has now been installed in this wonderful, historic home. It is my honor and privilege as the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden to be able to showcase the works of a dozen artists here in Villa Åkerlund through the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies program.
The Art in Embassies program began in 1953 — originally as an idea of the Museum of Modern Art, or MOMA, in New York City. That year, the museum started an international council to facilitate exhibitions of American art around the world. In fact, the first exhibition of American art abroad that the council sponsored was to neighboring Norway. In 1959, the State Department and MOMA established a joint loan program with the goal of lending contemporary works of art to U.S. Ambassadors for use in their official residences. In 1963, President Kennedy created, by executive order, an Advisory Council on the Arts or Art in Embassies Office within the State Department.
Art in Embassies enables artist exchanges and the presentation of works by outstanding American and international artists to audiences around the world. U.S. Ambassadors and Embassies select works of art together with curators in Washington. It can be a rather lengthy process, but I think you will agree that, in the end, it is worth it.
The American art that is on display in this exhibit consists of pieces that were of particular interest to me and each work has its own story: from idea, through creation. I would be happy to tell you why each one appeals to me. [I also wrote a few comments about each piece in the Art in Embassies brochure that you probably saw when you came in. As you look at them yourselves, however, I’d be very interested to know which ones speak to you and why.
It is that personal connection to art, and then the discussion of it together, that makes cultural exchanges so compelling and important. Art’s power to reveal, transform, and transcend can help build stronger bonds between and among us as human beings, and that is why increasing cultural exchanges between the United States and Sweden is one of my top priorities as Ambassador.
Please walk around and view the pieces, and as you do, feel free to take a selfie with the Art in Embassies works you like, or a Polaroid, or write a word that comes to mind on the screen over there. I hope you enjoy the art and thank you all for coming. Skål!