As I described in an earlier post, Art in Embassies is a decades-old program intended to create an ever-changing global museum of American art in diplomatic residences abroad. We added a new twist in Wellington by asking an emerging Kiwi artist (James Brown) and an emerging American artist (Nathan Huff) to select the art and curate the exhibition on my behalf.

That new approach introduced excitement but also a bit of risk into the project, since whatever was chosen would remain on the walls as long as I am Ambassador. The art has now arrived … the verdict is in … and I couldn’t be happier. The individual works are dynamic and engaging. Taken together they interact in interesting ways, stir emotion, and provoke thought.

Nathan and James entitled the exhibition Encountering Place because each of the 14 works that they selected in some way explores the concept of location. As they explain in their introduction in the online exhibition book for the show:

“While places depicted in art are often noticed first for the location represented, artists whose investigation evoked an emotional tie to a location increasingly intrigued us. We appreciated artists who engaged with critical commentary about the construct of an image of a place, and others who used illusion, displacement, and intentional intervention in the space to draw attention to the “placeness” of the work.”

James talking with guests.

James Brown (at left) talking with guests at the opening.

This past Wednesday we officially opened the exhibition with a reception at the Residence for about 50 friends from Wellington cultural circles. Several artists whose works are included in the show attended as well. The highlight of the evening was hearing James describe to the group his trip to Los Angeles and the dynamics of his collaboration with Nathan.

My good friend the Honourable Rob Talbot also spoke, on behalf of the New Zealand American Association and the Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Trust. The Trust contributed to the exhibition in a very significant way by providing the grant that allowed James to travel to Los Angeles to work directly with Nathan. In addition to Rob, trustees Greg Crott, John Gordon, and Ray O’Brien were also present.

The consensus of the evening was that Nathan and James have assembled a winning collection. Based on what I saw and heard, it’s also clear that they produced popular triumphs in the works that they themselves painted specifically for the exhibition … Nathan’s Negotiating Place and James’ Back. The short video below, narrated by James, shows how all the works look within the Residence:

A large number of people contributed to the project. In addition to Nathan, James, and my hardworking, creative colleagues at the Embassy, I’d like to thank the other artists who so graciously loaned us art for the exhibition … Kiwis Ingrid Boberg, Karley Feaver, Anne-Marie Jean, Jae Hoon Lee, and Mica Still … and Americans Jonathan Anderson, Nancy Vogeli-Curran, Melissa Kauk, Claudia Morales-McCain, Christina Shurts, and Devon Tsuno.

We’ll be holding additional showings in the months ahead. I hope that you have an opportunity to come see the art in person. In the meantime, take a look at our online exhibition book for the curators’ complete notes, photographs of the individual works of art, and biographical and contact information for the artists included in the show.

If any of the pieces in the exhibition particularly interest you, please feel free to contact the artists directly. I know that they would appreciate hearing from you as well as seeing you at the galleries where they exhibit their work.