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.