U.S. Embassy in Beijing


On the occassion of the 2008 Olympic Games, the new American Embassy in Beijing opened last Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Though not as prominent as the architectural “monuments” of Rem Koolhaas or Herzog & de Meuron, the eight-story embassy is the second-largest U.S. diplomatic post in the world.

A display of contemporary art inside the embassy includes Art21 artists Louise Bourgeois and Maya Lin (both Season 1), Martin Puryear (Season 2), and Cai Guo-Qiang (Season 3). Works by Yun-Fei Ji, Hai Bo, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark DiSuvero, Ellsworth Kelly, Jeff Koons, and Betty Woodman are also on view. The Art Newspaper reports that the $800,000 spent for art on the Beijing project is the largest sum ever for a U.S. embassy. The State Department calculates its art budgets based on a building’s square footage.

Cai’s gunpowder piece Eagle Landing on the Pine Branch (2007) is, according to China Daily, especially significant: “the motifs of eagle and pine trees were chosen for their symbolic value in both China and the United States, representing the friendship and cooperation between the two countries.” Catch a glimpse of the piece in a New York Times video titled “The Pyrotechnic Imagination”.

The building was designed by the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Click here to view the firm’s image gallery for the project.

Nicole J. Caruth is the digital content editor at ART21 and editor of the ART21 Magazine. Her writing has appeared in a range of publications, including ARTnews, C Magazine, Gastronomica, Public Art Review, and the Phaidon Press books Vitamin Green and Vitamin D2. A regular contributor to this site since 2008, she joined the ART21 staff in 2013.
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