July - December 2020
The Library Trust is pleased to present a collaboration with the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Thailand and the Art in Embassies program of the U.S. Department of State, featuring an exhibition of twenty artworks from our collection on view in the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Bangkok, Thailand.
Twenty of our artworks are on view in the reception areas at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Bangkok, Thailand. The exhibition was organized in collaboration with the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand, Michael George DeSombre. Ambassador DeSombre has been a member of The Army and Navy Club since 2019.
Art in Embassies (AIE) is an official visual arts office within the U.S. Department of State, which facilitates about 60 international art exhibitions per year. With a staff of professional curators and registrars, AIE engages over 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors. President John F. Kennedy formalized AIE in 1963. For more than five decades it has played a leading role in U.S. public diplomacy through its mission of cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through the visual arts.
In the following message, Ambassador DeSombre provides his own personal remarks about his history with The Army and Navy Club and his decision to develop an exhibition using exclusively works from our collection:
I was first introduced to The Army and Navy Club through the reciprocal club network. Living in Hong Kong at the time and a member of The American Club of Hong Kong, I began traveling frequently to Washington DC in 2017. As I did, I was pleased to discover that I could stay at The Army and Navy Club on Farragut Square, which was very convenient to The White House, The State Department, and my offices in DC. I began staying regularly at the club, where I enjoyed hosting meetings over breakfast and dinner in the main dining room, and also meeting friends for drinks at the Daiquiri Bar. Both locations perfectly combine convenience, privacy, and formality with great food and drink, outstanding service, and amazing art and decor.
After I was nominated to be the United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand and spending even more time in DC, I joined the club as a full member. In the Summer of 2019 during many meals and meetings at the club, I really came to appreciate its amazing art collection. Thus, when I was introduced to the Art in Embassies program, I dared to hope that The Army and Navy Club would loan some of their art to decorate the Ambassador’s Residence.
In deciding which art to select, I wanted to highlight themes that either connect with me personally or with Thailand. The first theme is the origins of the United States Navy during the late 1780s and early 1800s. This period has always held great interest for me, and the beautiful trading and war ships of this era were instrumental in the early days of the United States’ relationship with the Kingdom of Thailand. The second theme is the World War II period. This era both set the foundation for the projection of United States power around the world and included the clandestine cooperation between the United States and Thailand that began a strategic relationship that continues through today. The third theme focuses on key American figures (such as General Washington) and other aspects of American history.
I also looked for painters who combined their artistic pursuits with a strong commitment to public service. Thus, we see Richard Norris Brooke serving as U.S. consul in France in the late nineteenth century and working on two presidential inaugurations in the early twentieth while simultaneously painting his portraits of notable Americans; we see the Danish-American painter Frank Christian Muller working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture while also painting commissioned works for the Naval Archives of the Navy Department; and we see William Woodward, the only artist in American history to design both the obverse and reverse sides of a United States coin. Each of these men fused together their love of art with their service to country, serving as models for all of us in public service.
I am deeply honored and grateful that The Army and Navy Club agreed to loan the 20 pieces of art to the Ambassador’s Residence here in Bangkok. They will be the only art displayed in the downstairs reception areas where we hold all our large receptions. All visitors to the Residence will experience the power and beauty of these pieces of art, and engage in discussions about American military history as it relates to Thailand. Thank you!
Michael George DeSombre
Ambassador of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Thailand