Art in Embassies Program: Guided visit to U.S. Embassy in Madrid (Spain)

Private guided tour to the Art in Embassies Collection at the US Embassy in Madrid.
Note: All photos are taken with camera in mobile phone.  No other cameras allowed for security reasons.

Art in Embassies (AIE) program was started in 1953 when the Museum of Modern Art designed a visual arts program that would present works of art as potent tool for diplomacy and the program officially started in 1963 as an initiative from the State Department. Nowadays it is a public-private institution that involve the work of curators, artists, galleries, collectors, museums and of course embassies in different countries. This program not only manages a permanent collection but also creates around temporary 60 exhibitions in different countries working along with many agents that would allow to exhibit on loan works of art.

 In the case of the US Embassy in Madrid, it was a decisive idea from the former A
mbassador to Spain James Costos and his partner, interior designer Michael S. Smith
who devoted time and efforts to the renovation of their residence and decided to include a curated display of works of art from the Art in Embassies Collection. They worked closely with Virginia Shore, AIE deputy and chief curator, to compound a well thought, in cases very personal, display as part of the decoration of the residence.

The visit was a tour to the public spaces in the residence and was narrated by the Embassy's Cultural Affairs representatives, who led us through the different rooms presenting the different works shown and sharing some stories behind the choosing of them.  Works in display are from contemporary artists such as Phillip Taafe, Esteban Vicente, Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschemberg, Glen Ligon (his work Double America causes great commotion), Julie Mehretu or Theaste Gates.
 In Ambassador Costs words, they wanted art that shows the connection between Spain and the U.S. in his office there are some etchings by James McNeill Whistlerwith significance from his childhood time spent with his Greek grandparents.

The display is well organized and integrated with the decoration in every room, a bonus is that the decisions of choosing each and every work are talking about interpretation, as in an exhibition in an art gallery or in a museum.  Another interesting concept here is that is a temporary display. Works are on loan for a limited period of time, since many of them come from private collectors or special agreements with museums or art galleries. The actual arrangement speaks of a personal vision of interconnections, a dialogue between the power of art in diplomacy, the power of the objects in a domestic space,and personal decisions about intellectual preferences and aesthetic taste.

This is a short review with images with significant interest for the botanical details, recurrent in almost every corner of the residence.


I really like that branched chandelier -- and all the floral arrangements, actually. Thanks for sharing the tour with us!
Anonymous said…
I love the Josef Albers paintings hanging in the stairway. Do you know who the green and yellow abstract painting is by?
Anonymous said…
I love the Josef Albers paintings hanging in the stairway. Do you know who the green and yellow abstract painting is by?
Donna@GWGT said…
Very beautiful images. The art is really different too. Nice you got the tour, seems odd they would give tours at an Embassy.
lula said…
Thanks Donna, this visit is part of a project from former ambassador that was personally interested in promoting art as a way of communicating between countries. It was very informative and I enjoyed very much the selection of works on show.
lula said…
I'm sorry Donna I didn't have time to write down all the names of artists and I cannot find the list, but I will try to find out for you.
lula said…
Thanks Beth!