Art and International Relations
As the Edinburgh Festivals so vividly demonstrate, artists and arts institutions have long been aware of the importance of global flows of artists and their works. National and international politics have, of course, affected both art content and the ability of artists to participate in international events. There are additional links between the arts and international relations, however. The transfer of artworks is often an announcement of changes in political relationships among states, whether as a result of imperial activity or of war. The refusal to permit the transfer of artworks among states is an important means of establishing cultural autonomy or protecting specific cultural, social, and political values. Promoting the transfers of artworks and artists among states is a type of public diplomacy that, it is believed, will carry with it political influence. Even the definition of citizenship has been manipulated in order to stake a national claim to – or to deny any relationship to – particular types of artistic work. Across a growing range of types of issues in international law, artworks and artists are used to effect power relations, to represent power relations, and as a venue for conflicts over power among states. All of these trends are growing in importance with the transition from the bureaucratic welfare state to the informational state that has already become the dominant political form of the 21st century. This paper will present a theoretical and conceptual framework for thinking about the many interactions between the arts and international relations, and then use that framework to analyze all of the stories in the archives of The Art Newspaper that deal with international legal affairs or political relations. The work builds upon two decades of work by the author on the use of cultural policy, a form of information policy, in the exercise of state power as well as her analyses of the diverse perspectives on the arts in an information economy and the political potential of the arts in the complex adaptive systems that are today’s states. The Rockefeller Foundation has provided support for this project.
Keywords: art law, foreign policy, international relations, international law, war, public diplomacy, imperialism, intellectual property, indigenous rights
Professor, Department of Communication, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee