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.
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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. To continue reading this article...
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