U.Group Becomes Home to Some of America’s Most Prestigious Art

America’s Artists Have a New Home in Dupont Circle

The boxes being carried into U.Group’s Dupont Circle office were labeled with names like Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Frank Stella, Carrie Mae Weems, Roy Lichtenstein, and a seemingly endless list of our country’s most notable and influential artists.

It was a Friday morning, and I was in disbelief as the installers carefully moved one masterpiece after another into the staging area set up to receive the collection. And even though I had been involved in the planning, it was still hard to believe that it was actually happening. Several months prior, conversations with the Foundation for Art Preservation in Embassies (FAPE) had started and matured as we found common purpose through our ability to provide a temporary showcase for the work as well as an event space the organization could use to promote their mission. As a result, FAPE generously agreed to put these works on loan ahead of their final placements in embassies worldwide, making the U.Group space the only complete showing of FAPE’s original print and photography collection in the world.

The Power of Art in Diplomacy

FAPE, headquartered in Washington, DC, is a unique public-private partnership between America’s greatest artists and philanthropists, and the U.S. Department of State. For the past 33 years, FAPE has raised more than $140 million to install outstanding American art at U.S. embassies in 140 countries around the world. FAPE promotes its mission of “soft diplomacy” by celebrating and sharing universal values of individuality, freedom of expression, and common humanity through the arts. The collection is a result of the generosity and patriotism of some of the United States’ greatest artists who donate their work, and donors who support the organization’s efforts to make this work available. In addition to the original print and photography collections, FAPE commissions large-scale sculptures and other highly visible art installations at existing and newly constructed U.S. embassies.

Being a steward of this collection holds special meaning for me. I studied art in New York in the 1980s and was steeped in the context of these artists, many of whom were central to my studies. To give a sense of the magnitude and depth of this collection, many of the artists play an important role in art history, while others have been helping define the next wave of art and culture in America. This is the real thing, from popular artists whose works have broken records at auction like Jasper Johns, to powerful commentary from artists like Carrie Mae Weems, and deep, multi-generational expressions like those of the quilters of Gee’s Bend. The collection crosses many historical and cultural dynamics.

Surrounded by Inspiration

An interesting side effect of being surrounded by such a comprehensive collection has been the conversations it has sparked. There have been heated discussions over personal preferences and what makes great art. There’s no shortage of opinions and will likely never be resolution—which is the whole point. To be in the presence of the tremendous thinking, creativity, innovation, bravery, and exploration that these artists and their work represent is humbling. These values are consistent with what we collectively aspire to, and we are fortunate to be inspired by them every day.

An Art World Who’s Who

The artists represented in the U.Group FAPE collection are:

  • Jeff Koons
  • Vija Celmins
  • Jasper Johns
  • Chuck Close
  • Loretta Bennett
  • Ellsworth Kelly
  • Julie Mehretu
  • Frank Stella
  • Mary Lee Bendolph
  • Roy Lichtenstein
  • Philip Pearlstein
  • Ellen Phelan
  • John Baldessari
  • Joel Shapiro
  • Cindy Sherman
  • Richard Benson
  • Tina Barney
  • Wayne Thiebaud
  • Carrie Mae Weems
  • Sam Gilliam
  • Robert Mangold
  • Susan Rothenberg
  • Terry Winters
  • Louisiana Bendolph
  • Brice Marden
  • Elizabeth Murray
  • Sylvia Plimack Mangold
  • James Rosenquist
  • Ed Ruscha
  • William Wegman
  • Loretta Pettway
  • Neil Winokur
  • Stephen Shore
  • Robert Rauschenberg

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