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Art from American Embassies Opens at Guild Hall

Christina Strassfield, Robert Storr, Jo Carole Lauder, Eden Rafshoon, Ruth Appelhof and Michael Lynne
Christina Strassfield, Robert Storr, Jo Carole Lauder, Eden Rafshoon, Ruth Appelhof and Michael Lynne

On Saturday, at Guild Hall in East Hampton, an exhibit of the print collection belonging to the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE) opened to the public. It is the first time ever that the collection has been shown in a private museum. Previously, the prints were only on view in American embassies around the world and at an annual unveiling of new prints presented to the Secretary of State once a year.

In addition to the prints, which are on view in the larger gallery at Guild Hall, a selection of maquettes done by the artists who have created site-specific sculpture for various embassies around the world can be seen in the smaller gallery.

Robert Storr, an artist and critic, who serves as Dean of the Yale School of Art, curated the exhibit. Storr was also the senior curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art from 1990 to 2002, where he organized numerous exhibitions.

Wendy W. Luers, wife of the former ambassador to the Czech Republic, the Honorable William W. Luers, founded the FAPE collection in 1989. She is the FAPE President Emerita. Mrs. Luers was previously on the board of the San Francisco Museum of Art and editor of San Francisco Magazine.

To-date FAPE has commissioned more than 200 works of art that can be seen in American Embassies in 140 countries and more than $80 million in art and donations have been raised.

“The prints and site-specific installations,” Mrs. Luers said, “are never purchased. There are no tax deductions. They are commissioned by FAPE and the artists donate their creativity and time. FAPE pays only for the fabrication thereby acquiring works of great value for a fraction of their cost.”

The collection is being shown at Guild Hall thanks to Mrs. Luers friendship with Jo Carole Lauder, of Wainscott, who is on the board of Guild Hall and whose husband, the Honorable Ronald Lauder, was Ambassador to Austria. Along with Eden Rafshoon, the current president of FAPE, and Ruth Appelhof, the executive director of Guild Hall, they successfully endeavored to bring the diversity of the extensive collection to Guild Hall.

FAPE commissions work from American artists. Once an artist has been selected and agreed to create a work, the embassy architects, the State Department, FAPE and the artist work together to ensure that the art is sensitively integrated within the building and its grounds. The process is highly collaborative.

Many of the artists whose work can be seen in the exhibit attended the opening. Most notably, Tina Barney, the photographer, Lynda Benglis and Joel Shapiro, both sculptors, and Odili Donald Odita, a painter. The four artists, led by Storr, engaged in a panel discussion before a standing room only crowd in the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall.

“The artists contributions are all voluntary,” said Storr by way of introduction. “The diversity and variety of the collection is emblematic of the diversity of the country.”

In turn, each of the artists discussed their experiences in working with FAPE and how it had challenged them as artists. There will be two more panel discussions in the weeks to come organized by Guild Hall and FAPE: David Rubenstein and Darren Walker in Conversation, Sunday July 20 at 11 a.m. and Andy Warhol: Global Phenomenon, Sunday July 27 at 11 a.m.

The FAPE collection can be seen at Guild Hall through July 27. The cost of admission is $7. There are three other shows on view at the museum concurrently: Nina Yankowitz’s multimedia project “Criss-Crossing the Divine;” watercolors by William Raynor and “Intersections” a collection of paintings and colored polymer installations, by Arlene Slavin.

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