Art and Diplomacy
Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards Artists from the Deutsche Bank Collection
||A great honor for five artists represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton paid tribute to Cai Guo-Qiang, Jeff Koons, Shahzia Sikander, Kiki Smith, and Carrie Mae Weems in Washington, awarding them the first U.S. Department of State – Medal of Arts for their outstanding commitment to the Art in Embassies (AIE) program, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
The AIE program, established by John F. Kennedy
in 1953, plays an important role in U.S. public diplomacy. It is based
on the conviction that the universal language of the fine arts helps
transcend borders. AIE stands for dialogue through art, transcending
cultural and political differences, by means of exhibitions, artist
exchange programs, and discussion forums in 189 countries.
In Washington, the 25th anniversary of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
will be celebrated in parallel. The gallery houses an important
collection of Asian art. Together with the State Department, the museum
invited Cai Guo-Qiang to realize one of his spectacular projects. For Black Christmas Tree: Explosion Event for Washington, D.C.,
Cai suspended a 40 feet tall pine tree with 2,000 purpose-built black
smoke air burst fireworks. Upon ignition, black smoke puffs will ‘light
up’ the tree, subsequently transforming into a cascade of thick smoke
that mimics the dynamic strokes of traditional Chinese brush drawings.
In the course of the fireworks display, the smoke will slowly waft away
from the tree, giving rise to two trees: a real tree and an ethereal
one floating next to it that slowly dissipates in the air.
Cai Guo-Qiang realizes his elaborate projects all over the world. He is closely connected to Deutsche Bank’s art activities. His exhibition project Head On was shown in the Deutsche Guggenheim in 2006. In addition, an entire floor of the bank’s Frankfurt Group Head Office is devoted to his work. The artist, who lives in New York, was awarded the renowned Praemium Imperiale this year. Jeff Koons also created a commissioned work for the Deutsche Guggenheim. In his painting series Easyfun-Ethereal
(2000), fragments of goods and bodies fuse into surreal landscapes. In
2008, Koons became the first living artist to exhibit in the Palace of Versailles. This year, his paintings and sculptures were on view in Frankfurt in a sensational double show.
Shahzia Sikander, like Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year” 2013, Imran Qureshi,
belongs to a generation of Pakistani artists who have radically renewed
centuries-old miniature painting. Sikander uses this very rigid style
to engage with current social or very personal issues, including
sexuality, politics, and the role of women in Muslim and Western
society. The artist, who now divides her time between New York and
Texas, mixes traditional motifs with references from popular culture
and transfers her fascinating collages to different media, from wall
painting to animation video. In her work, she asks us to examine our
attitude towards other cultures and religions.
Kiki Smith and
Carrie Mae Weems, two important women artists, also received the
distinction. They represent important tendencies in U.S. art,
investigating gender roles and ethnic identity. While Smith puts the
female body, pain, and ephemerality at the center of her sculptural
work, in her photographs, films, and installations Weems explores the
role of the African-American community in American history. The former
unionist satirizes old and new stereotypes to drive cultural and social
processes of change.