July 19, 2018
First of all, welcome, kalo kalokairi, this is a beautiful Athens evening. Tonight has two purposes, neither of which involve a lot of work, so the theme is to enjoy yourselves. First, and the first reason for doing this evening, is the official unveiling of the catalogue for our Art in Embassies collection here at the residence.
Art in Embassies is a U.S. State Department program that began with President Kennedy, and it creates a vehicle to provide for ambassadorial residences overseas examples of the best of American art and culture. So, when Mary and I learned we were coming to Athens and we started to build our Art in Embassies collection, we settled on the theme of ‘illumination,’ because one of the things that I most remembered from our visits to Athens as tourists is something you all take for granted, but it’s the remarkable light of this city, which is really unique in the world. So we built our collection around this theme of illumination – the catalogue is around, and I encourage everyone to grab a copy.
A lot of it is California artists, which was another focus that we put when we built this, but we also had the opportunity, and I want to say special thanks to the Embassy Public Affairs team, but especially Artemis and the team at Fulbright, because Artemis made the suggestion that we use the exhibition as an opportunity to highlight some of the many, many Fulbright artists who have been part of the program. This is the 70th anniversary year for Fulbright Greece, so we’re doing a lot of different programs to put a spotlight on the tradition of the cultural exchange between American and Greece that that program has facilitated. So as you look around you’ll see a number of Fulbright artists, but we were especially pleased when we started to put this together that one of the Fulbright artists who offered to participate was Costas Varotsos.
I think if you had to choose one modern Greek sculptor who is emblematic of Greek art it’s Costas. Of course, everybody knows “The Runner” here in Athens. I keep running into Costas Varotsos works all over Greece – we were in Ioannina in the winter and I came around a corner and I went “oh that’s a Varotsos.” But we are really very, very honored that Costas has agreed to loan us the piece that you see behind me, which truth be told the first time we saw this exhibited, there was a piece of it in Syros, which is an island that has a special connection to the United States. But Costas chose this for this spot, it looks spectacular, it will actually look even better as it gets darker when the lighting is there. So I want to say a special thank you to Costas for being such a great partner but also for honoring us by sharing your creativity with us for our time here.
And then, and now I’m going to stop talking, this is also our first movie night of the year, and another one of the things when Mary and I came to Greece we remembered from our visits as tourists the outdoor movie theatres, which reminded me so much of growing up in Southern California and our drive-ins. So we said we want to do an Athens outdoor cinema in our backyard.
So tonight is the first edition for this year, and we’re very pleased that we’re having a film that puts a special spotlight on our democratic traditions in the United States. It’s a film called The Post that tells the story of the Pentagon Papers and the role that The Washington Post played during that critical phase of debate in the United States. So it’s a reminder of the essential role that a free press plays in our democracy, in your democracy, and in particular the role that journalists have to play in terms of putting a spotlight on the truth.
So enjoy tonight, please grab a drink, grab some popcorn, grab a hotdog, grab some pizza, and enjoy the film.
Thank you very much.