Follow, share and connect through art
We decided to name the three official guest bedrooms in the Residence after three remarkable women who played important roles in the development of the UK-Romania relationship: Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938), a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria; English-born Maria Rosetti (1827-1876), wife of the literary and political princely leader Constantin Alexandru Rosetti; and Elsie Inglis (1864-1917), the founder of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, who played a crucial role in caring for injured service personnel on the Romanian front in the First World War. Each bedroom was decorated with a painting or a photograph of its namesake. I think our guests welcomed our celebration of the deep historical connections between the two countries.
Laura Popoviciu: Were there works at the Residence in Bucharest that visitors might have been surprised to find in a diplomatic building?
Paul Brummell: Perhaps the most surprising item on the Residence walls was a fire-damaged London print. We had retained it as a reminder of the damage sustained to the previous Residence building during the Romanian Revolution in 1989. My personal favourite among the Collection artworks on display in Bucharest was Carel Weight’s Life in Putney, one of several pieces to enliven my office wall. It was a placid autumnal suburban scene, with the height of action represented by a couple walking their dog. I never did identify a Romanian connection to the painting, though.
Laura Popoviciu: In a blog post you wrote in 2018, you concluded that the ‘Government Art Collection plays an important part in the mobilisation of British soft power to support the development of our international friendships’. Looking ahead to the future of the UK’s foreign diplomatic relations, are there any ways you think the Collection could make new contributions to soft power?
Paul Brummell: I think one area which could be developed more strongly is around enhancing awareness in the UK of the Collection and its role. To this end, the Collection’s forthcoming move, with the prospect of accessible display space at the new site, is I think an opportunity to showcase material which illuminates the role of the collection in support of diplomacy. Another important development is around technology, and the opportunities the digital revolution has created to make art from the Collection available to a wider audience than those who will physically visit an embassy or ambassadorial residence.
Why the Government has an art collection, what it collects and why the Collection is spread across the world.
Tim Hitchens was Britain’s Ambassador to Japan from 2012–2016 and during that time, the Collection worked with him to curate new displays of art for the Embassy and Residence in Tokyo. In this interview from 2015, he reflects on the role that art played in diplomacy, on his watch.
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