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Cultural diplomacy debunked

Montage of three artworks from the collection: ceramic panels, acrylic on canvas and sculpture.

At Global Affairs Canada (GAC), we are proud ambassadors of cultural diplomacy, an approach that emphasizes art and culture as drivers of diplomacy. Alongside traditional state diplomacy, cultural diplomacy aims to build bridges between cultures by encouraging the sharing of points of view, as well as the recognition and understanding of differences.

Transcending borders

GAC’s visual art collection has over 6,500 works of art from all mediums—paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, textiles, videos and works of craftsmanship—exhibited at 100 missions around the world.

Assembled over the course of nearly 100 years, the collection proudly supports Canada’s historical traditions and contemporary practices in visual arts. It enables visual arts and Canadian culture to play a leading role in advancing the priorities of GAC’s mandate. It helps showcase the rich diversity of voices and perspectives of artists from all regions of the country. The collection also promotes intercultural exchanges and relations abroad.

The works of art exhibited at missions help to build links with host countries and showcase Canadian values, such as the environment and sustainable development, Indigenous relations and reconciliation and gender equality.

This support for culture and the arts demonstrates Canada’s leadership toward a more prosperous and progressive world. It promotes dialogue, exchanges and commitment regarding shared international concerns. The values of inclusion and diversity, which are central to Canada’s identity, form the basis of this approach, which advocates influence through culture.

Toward a thriving and accessible future

GAC’s visual art collection team, in collaboration with many leaders from the art and museum community across Canada, has created a high-calibre collection that is the envy of many institutions. The collection is growing every year and needs to go digital to continue to advance its mission.

The collection’s visibility and the increasing influence of the artists it showcases are reflected in several actions, including loans to various museums and the digitization of the collection. The benefits of these actions will be accessibility, in Canada and abroad, the increased visibility of Canadian artists on the world stage and the promotion of the dynamism and relevance of visual arts as a diplomatic tool.

The adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” is especially true here.

Descriptions and photo credits, banner image

1. (Left, below) The Canadian Embassy, Brussels, Belgium, Hilde Lambrechts, Bark Archive (2013) ceramic panels, Catalogue no. 2016.19.1-100, Global Affairs Canada, Visual Art Collection. © Hilde Lambrechts 2. (Right, above) The Embassy of Canada to Colombia, Luke Ramsey, Minerals et Endless River (2017) acrylic on canvas, Catalogue no. 2018.77.1, 2, Global Affairs Canada, Visual Art Collection. © Luke Ramsey 3. (Right, below) Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations / The Consulate General of Canada, New York Foreground: Simon Dick, Hokw Hokw (2017) red cedar, abalone, feathers, Catalogue no. 2018.63.1, Global Affairs Canada, Visual Art Collection. © Simon Dick Background: karen elaine spencer, Remember This - Periboea's Advice to Penelope - As Inspired by Margaret Atwood's Book, The Penelopiad (2018) printed acoustic textile, Catalogue no. 2018.100.1, Global Affairs Canada, Visual Art Collection. © karen elaine spencer

Two employees install an artwork on a wall.
Art Installation, Sabrina Ratté, Undream (2019). Laminated Archival Pigment, Catalogue no. 2022.16.4, Global Affairs Canada, Visual Art Collection. © Sabrina Ratté
Lounge at the Canadian Embassy in Reykjavik where two paintings from the collection can be found.
Reykjavik, Iceland. Valérie Gobeil, Frise (2020) tufting on cotton, Catalogue no. 2020.27.1, Global Affairs Canada, Visual Art Collection. ©Valérie Gobeil
Piece from the collection in a vault.
GAC Fine Art Vault, Christine Koch, Never Melting Ice I (Cirque) (2015). Acrylic, water colour and oil stick on primed strapped birch plywood panels, Catalogue no. 2019.19.1a-e, Global Affairs Canada, Visual Art Collection. © Christine Koch
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