The art collection inside the new United States Mission to the United Nations, as curated by Yale art school dean Robert Storr, is American art at its least provocative. The decorative mix of mainly abstract prints by well-known U.S. artists is unadventurous and uniformly anodyne — about what one would expect for a government building: nothing to ruffle the American eagle’s feathers. In a year when Allora & Calzadilla are bringing politically-charged, challenging art to the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Biennale, this reticence on the part of Storr — who was a controversial Biennale’s director in 2007 — suggests that the nature of the U.N. work requires a decorator’s eye and a Rolodex, rather than a scholar or critic.For slide show and my complete review click here or the image above.
The mission building, designed by the late Charles Gwathmey, dearly needs art, and it gets some courtesy of the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE), a private nonprofit that since 1986 has fitted out U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world. It must be said that FAPE does good work. Many bland government buildings would be even blander were it not for the organization, which claims to have raised $56 million toward art and logistical costs to decorate U.S. facilities in more than 140 countries. But their art programs are dictated by their official setting and function, which is to say that they tend to be serviceable and dull.
Distributed about the cramped offices, meeting rooms, and corridors of the upper floors, which house the U.S. Mission and other Department of State personnel, are benign abstractions, mainly prints and multiples in pleasing colors. If the installation were an exhibition, it might be titled “American Wall Candy.”
FAPE chairman Jo Carole Lauder — the wife of billionaire Ronald Lauder , former chairman of MoMA — led a recent tour of the building, and says the collection “captures the diversity and richness of our country’s unique culture.” But the selection represents a thin slice of the American pie, one that suggests the country’s culture is acritical and concerned mainly with aesthetics as decoration.
For slide show and my complete review click here or the image above.