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Secretary of State Clinton Awards Alumnus Jeff Koons '76 One of First Medals of Arts

Jeff Koons Honored for His Commitment to Art in Embassies Program

Posted 11.30.12 by mica communications

Jeff Koons '76 receives the Medal of Arts from the U.S. Department of State

Alumnus Jeff Koons '76 was one of five artists from around the world awarded the U.S. Department of State's first ever Medal of Arts for their outstanding commitment to international cultural exchange and the Art in Embassies program. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the award to Koons and Cai Guo-Qiang, Shahazia Sikander, Kiki Smith and Carrie Mae Weems on Nov. 30 in the diplomatic reception rooms of the U.S. Department of State.

The event was part of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Art in Embassies Program (AIEP), which was inaugurated by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to enhance U.S. public diplomacy through cross-cultural dialogue centered around the visual arts and artist exchange. Today, more than 20,000 participants are engaged globally through the work of more than 3,000 artists in venues in 189 countries. Since 2003, the U.S. Department of State has installed 58 permanent collections at U.S. embassies, including Koons' Tulips sculpture, which was installed at the U.S. embassy in Beijing in 2008.

The citation read in honor of Koons follows:

"Jeff Koons is celebrated worldwide. He is known for his unique blend of conceptual and pop art with popular culture and his work has been shown at the Tate Gallery, Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim Museum, to name a few. Koons has been a champion of art in embassies for many years. In addition to lending his monumental Tulips sculpture to the embassy in Beijing, Jeff traveled to China earlier this year, where he engaged in a series of conversations and lectures that inspired cross-cultural appreciation and thought-provoking discussions among the city's art community and a thousand people showed up to hear him speak."

Watch: Jeff Koons receives the Medal of Arts from the U.S. Department of State


The use of art has maintained an important role within the U.S. Department of State, as it has transcended borders and helped develop strong connections and relationships among people.

"Art is also a tool of diplomacy. It is one that reaches beyond governments, past all of the official conference rooms and the presidential palaces, to connect with people all over the world," said Clinton before awarding the artists.

"[Each of these artists] are living testaments to the timeless and unending human urge to create and connect," she continued. "So they provide us with another language of diplomacy, one that evokes our universal aspirations as human beings, our common challenges, and our responsibilities for thinking through and addressing the problems that we face together."

Koons' work is celebrated worldwide and has been widely exhibited internationally, including at the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art, all in New York, and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, the Château de Versailles in Paris, and more.

Watch: Jeff Koons talks about his medal with Time magazine

READ: Secretary Clinton's Opening Remarks at Awards Ceremony
WATCH: Aspen Institute/Wilson Center Panel Discussion with Honorees
SEE:  Koons' Tulips sculpture at U.S. Embassy in Beijing (Los Angeles Times)

Image caption: Jeff Koons '76 receives the Medal of Arts from the U.S. Department of State.