Maya Lin and Xu Bing Among State Department Medal of Arts Honorees

The full list is revealed.

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Sam Gilliam, Mali (2006), appeared at the Bamako embassy, Mali, in 2006. Photo: Sam Gilliam, via Art in Embassies.
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Sam Gilliam, Mali (2006), appeared at the Bamako embassy, Mali, in 2006. Photo: Sam Gilliam, via Art in Embassies.
Sam Gilliam, Mali (2006), appeared at the Bamako embassy, Mali, in 2006. Photo: Sam Gilliam, via Art in Embassies.
Mark Bradford, The Practice (2003), appeared at the Stockholm embassy in 2009. Photo: Courtesy of the International Contemporary Art Foundation, Laura Lee Brown, and Steve Wilson, Louisville, Kentucky, via Art in Embassies.
Mark Bradford, The Practice (2003), appeared at the Stockholm embassy in 2009. Photo: Courtesy of the International Contemporary Art Foundation, Laura Lee Brown, and Steve Wilson, Louisville, Kentucky, via Art in Embassies.
Xu Bing, Monkeys Grasping for the Moon (2001 and 2003), appeared at the Beijing embassy in 2008. Photo: Xu Bing, via Art in Embassies.
Xu Bing, Monkeys Grasping for the Moon (2001 and 2003), appeared at the Beijing embassy in 2008. Photo: Xu Bing, via Art in Embassies.
Pedro Reyes, The Ear (2010), appeared at the Tijuana Consulate in 2011. Photo: Pedro Reyes, via Art in Embassies.
Pedro Reyes, The Ear (2010), appeared at the Tijuana Consulate in 2011. Photo: Pedro Reyes, via Art in Embassies.
Maya Lin, 2x4 Landscape (2006), appeared at the Tate Modern in 2012. Photo: Colleen Chartier, via Art in Embassies.
Maya Lin, 2x4 Landscape (2006), appeared at the Tate Modern in 2012. Photo: Colleen Chartier, via Art in Embassies.
Kehinde Wiley, Dwayne (2008), appeared at the Kingston embassy in 2012. Photo: Kehinde Wiley and Julie and Bennett Roberts, Culver City, California, via Art in Embassies.
Kehinde Wiley, Dwayne (2008), appeared at the Kingston embassy in 2012. Photo: Kehinde Wiley and Julie and Bennett Roberts, Culver City, California, via Art in Embassies.
Julie Mehretu, Plovers Wing (2009), appeared at the Madrid Embassy in 2014. Photo: Julie Mehretu, via Art in Embassies.
Julie Mehretu, Plovers Wing (2009), appeared at the Madrid Embassy in 2014. Photo: Julie Mehretu, via Art in Embassies.

This year, the State Department’s Art in Embassies (AIE) program will honor seven artists with its Medal of ArtsJulie Mehretu, Maya Lin, Xu BingMark BradfordKehinde Wiley, Pedro Reyes, and Sam Gilliam.

Of the seven recipients, the 81-year-old Gilliam (recently featured in Blake Gopnik’s daily pic; see Sam Gilliam, Cut from Feminist Cloth) has been singled out with AIE’s first lifetime achievement award. His work most recently appeared at the Rabat embassy in Morocco, in a temporary exhibition, but has also graced embassy walls in Lima; Kingston, Jamaica; and Bamako, Mali, in the past decade. Though Gilliam may be the most prolific of the lot, all seven artists are veterans of AIE program, which brings artwork to over 200 American consulates and embassies around the world as part of the State Departments efforts to promote cultural diplomacy.

News of Wiley’s selection for the honor broke first, when his Los Angeles gallery, Roberts & Tilton, sent out a press release afternoon (see John Kerry Will Present the State Department Medal of Arts to Kehinde Wiley). His involvement with AIE dates back to 2007, and has seen his signature paintings of young African Americans, which offer a modern-day take on Old Master portraiture, exhibited on three continents.

Mark Bradford

Yesterday, Hauser & Wirth made a similar announcement about Bradford, one of the best-selling West Coast artists working today (see Mark Bradford Gets State Department Medal of Arts and artnet News’s Top 10 Most Expensive Living West Coast Artists). According to the US State Department website, his work “transforms materials scavenged from the street into wall-sized collages and installations that respond to the impromptu networks—underground economies, migrant communities, or popular appropriation of abandoned public space—that emerge within a city.” Through AIE, Bradford has displayed art in Stockholm in 2009, and in Berlin in 2014.

Other AIE projects from the new Medal of Arts recipients include Reyes’s The Ear, a powder-coated steel armature permanently installed at the Tijuana consulate as part of an exchange program between the Mexican artist and students at the San Francisco Art Institute; Lin’s 2012 participation in the AIE American Artist Lecture Series at London’s Tate Modern; and two separate 2008 Beijing installations of Xu’s Monkey’s Grasping for the Moon, a 96-foot-long hanging word puzzle crafted from Baltic birch.

Secretary of State John Kerry will bestow the medals on the artists at a ceremony held in Washington, DC, on January 21.


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