Artists await call-up as new US Embassy in London arises

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Site-specific commissions expected for building near the Thames

Embassy art: Tina Barney’s Color Guard, 2007

A series of site-specific works by American artists is expected to be created for the new US Embassy in London when it moves south from Mayfair to Nine Elms in 2017.

“I’m hopeful that there will be works commissioned by Fape [the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies],” says the leading US curator and academic Robert Storr. He selects and commissions works for the private, non-profit organisation, which gives works by American artists to US embassies around the world (left, Tina Barney’s Color Guard, 2007).

The foundation provides a prime platform for artists. It was established in 1986 by a group of philanthropists and collectors including the late Leonore Annenberg. “There is no commercial agenda whatsoever,” says Storr, the dean of the Yale University School of Art. Sponsors include Bank of America and Christie’s. “The works are all donated, and Fape funds their fabrication and installation,” says Jennifer Duncan, the foundation’s director.

Previous site-specific commissions have been awarded to artists including Lynda Benglis, whose abstract bronze sculpturePaschim, 2010, is on permanent display in the US Embassy in Mumbai; Ellsworth Kelly, who installed a 40ft stainless-steel sculpture, Berlin Totem, in the courtyard of the US Embassy in the German capital in 2008; and Maya Lin, who created two sundials for the US Consulate in Istanbul in 2003.

An exhibition of the foundation’s collection is due to open at the Museum at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York, this summer (21 June-27 July). The US Embassy in London declined to comment.

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