Celebrating British Art and Artists in Washington DC

by Sarah Victoria Turner

  • 1 May 2024

The gardens of the British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington DC, situated in a prime position on Massachusetts Avenue, were brimming with spring flowers when I visited in early April along with colleagues from the Paul Mellon Centre (PMC), the Yale Center for British Art and the UK’s Government Art Collection.

April is a famed month to visit Washington DC when the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom; many given as an act of cultural diplomacy and friendship from Japan to the United States in the early twentieth century.

The occasion was a dinner hosted by Dame Karen Pierce, His Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States, with Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Robson Orr, and in partnership with the PMC, Yale Centre for British Art and the Government Art Collection, the latter responsible for a collection of 15,000 works of art displayed in government buildings in the UK and over 125 countries around the world.

Courtney J. Martin (Director, Yale Center for British Art) and I held a panel discussion with the artists Anya Gallaccio and Rana Begum, both represented in the Government Art Collection, reflecting on the experience of having their artworks hanging in busy diplomatic and governmental spaces. We were also joined by the ceramic installation artist Lindsey Mendick who had been commissioned to make a series of vases inspired by the Residence’s famous orchid collection.

Occasions such as these help to position the study of British Art in an international context and connect audiences with our work outside of the UK.