The "Art" of Diplomacy

Lichtenstein’s Iconic Greene Street Mural on View at State Department
May 01, 2017
Credit: Beyer Blinder Belle

Partner Hany Hassan was invited to speak at a ceremony celebrating the installation of a replica of Roy Lichtenstein’s Greene Street Mural at the United States Diplomacy Center, a new museum and educational center designed by BBB for the State Department.

The donation of the expansive art piece was organized by the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE) with the generosity of the Dorothy Lichtenstein and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. The original mural, measuring 18’ x 96 ½’, remixed imagery from some of Lichtenstein’s most iconic paintings. A replica of the mural will also soon be installed at the US Embassy in Mexico City.

Constructed in 1942, the Truman Building was originally intended for the War Department (now the Department of Defense), but by the time the building was completed, the agency had outgrown the space as a result of World War II, so Congress appropriated funds for construction of the Pentagon. Instead, the building became the headquarters for the Department of State.

The Lichtenstein painting is displayed above the original Virginia Avenue entrance doors (now the threshold between the Diplomacy Center addition and the historic building), where the words “War Department” were once inscribed.

“As architects, we advance our mission through projects that contribute to our communities, our cities and beyond. In today’s world, there couldn’t be a more meaningful project than helping to create the US Diplomacy Center. I mentioned this several years ago, at the beginning of the project, it still rings true today,” commented Hany Hassan.

Beyer Blinder Belle

Hany Hassan, FAIA, Partner, Beyer Blinder Belle; Lead Designer of the US Diplomacy Center.

View of the historic building, showing the “War Department” inscription above the Virginia Avenue entrance doors.

Photo courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Roy Lichtenstein in front of Green Street Mural, New York, 1983.

About Greene Street Mural

In December 1983, Roy Lichtenstein created Greene Street Mural, an unprecedented, site -specific, and temporary wall painting measuring 18’ x 96 ½’ at the Castelli Gallery at 142 Greene Street.

In accordance with Lichtenstein’s intention, the work was destroyed after the six -week show. More than 30 years later, the Gagosian Gallery presented to a new generation of viewers a full ¬ scale painted replica of the original work, based on documentation from Lichtenstein’s studio and produced under the supervision of his former studio assistant. In keeping with the momentous spirit of the original project, the replica was destroyed at the close of the exhibition.

In Greene Street Mural, Lichtenstein layered pervasive images from his pop lexicon—marble¬patterned composition notebooks, cartoonish brush strokes, and Swiss cheese—with new motifs, including the Neo-Geo tropes of the Perfect/Imperfect paintings; faux wood block shading patterns; and office items including filing cabinets, envelopes, and folding chairs. Echoing the self-reflexive and art -historical juxtapositions of the Artist’s Studio paintings made during the same period, the mural conflates citations from Lichtenstein’s own oeuvre with references to Picasso and Brancusi, Art Deco motifs, and depictions of the Great Pyramids. This heady mix epitomizes Lichtenstein’s ability to absorb anything and everything that caught his eye into his constantly evolving artistic idiom.

FAPE is tremendously grateful to Dorothy Lichtenstein and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation for their extraordinary gift of Greene Street Mural, which will be installed permanently at the new U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico. The mural will greet visitors as they enter the dignitary entrance. FAPE is honored to include this work in our Collection.

Artwork © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.