US Ambassador to Spain Allows Visitors to See His Blue Chip Art Collection–And it Is Amazing

A world class collection opens to the public.

Costos and his partner, pictured in the US embassy. Photo by James Rajotte, Courtesy of El Pais.

US Ambassador to Spain James Costos and his partner Michael S. Smith, an interior designer, have opened up their Madrid residence for a public viewing of their world class art collection, according to El Pais.

Costos and Smith moved to the residence in 2013, and were one of the first same-sex couples to occupy the space. “The roles of a traditional diplomat and wife are very much changed,” Smith told the Huffington Post earlier this year. “The next person that comes [in as ambassador] will not necessarily be bound by conventions.”

The Art in Embassies program began in 1961 by then first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Costos’ and Smith’s collection includes 80 works from the program by American, Latin American and Spanish artists including Philip Guston, Theaster Gates, Pat Steir, Catherine Opie, Philip Taaffe, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Antoni Tapies, and Cristina Iglesias.

“We wanted art that highlights America and the connection between Spain and the US, and we also targeted pieces by artists who we knew would come and discuss their work,” Smith told Architectural Digest.

Noting a work by Gates in the dining room, Costos told El Pais that the artist “used tar in his work in remembrance of his father who was a roofer,” and of Opie notes that themes regarding LGBTQ rights are prevalent in her work. He also cite pieces by two artists—Josef Albers and Esteban Vicente—who fled Europe to start new lives in the US.

Members of the public can view the collection by sending an email request directly to the embassy or via its social media accounts.


The large painting on the left is by Philip Taaffe.
Image: Courtesy of El Pais.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics