The British embassy’s official residence has seen a cultural infusion, with specialist staff installing several new pieces of artwork late last month. The UK government’s art collection is the most widely distributed collection of British art in the world. Containing over 13,000 pieces of art, ranging from sculpture to oil paintings, the collection has been ongoing for over 100 years, with the main aims being to support British art and promote cultural diplomacy.
The art is distributed in government buildings across the globe--embassies, consulates and ministries in almost every capital city have some of the collection’s artwork on display. “It’s available to those of us who are decorating public buildings,” British ambassador to Luxembourg Alice Walpole told Delano. Most recently, it is her personal residence here in Luxembourg that has been the recipient of such decoration.
“The reason we’re doing it now is because we’ve increased the number of reception rooms we have--so I asked if I could have some more art, and took the opportunity to make some additions,” said the ambassador. The artworks from the collection have been installed in areas of public access and where foreign dignitaries are received--in particular the ground and first floor reception rooms and the official guest bedrooms.
The selection of the paintings is thoughtful--they all hold some sort of resonance with the house and country that they are displayed in. The ambassador’s residence in Luxembourg was occupied by an art collector between the two world wars, and attempts were made to reflect this in the paintings chosen.
“The heyday of the house was the first half of the 20th century, and I’ve tried to replicate on the walls some art of the sort that an individual might have had in that period,” Walpole said. “I’ve tried to pick art that I think will be of interest; that will be suitable”.
When asked about her favourite piece, the ambassador is decisive: “A small picture by someone called Ivon Hitchens. He’s one of my favourite artists, the colours are beautiful and I think it’s tremendous”.
The art on display in the residence is clearly varied, from watercolour landscapes to portraits of famous Luxembourgers--and there are several older works of art that were commissioned especially for the embassy. “One of my predecessors 20 years ago, Nicholas Elam, had two or three artists who came to stay and did some pictures while they were here--and we still have all of them hanging in the residence,” reported the ambassador.
“Those are charming, and I hope they will stay in the residence for a very long time, because they are all about Luxembourg”.
It is likely that they will, because the art does not get switched around often--making this event somewhat significant, according to the ambassador. “It’s a big process, and I don’t imagine we’ll do that again in the next few years!” she said.