The Valley of the Lilacs – Art in Embassies Program

Submitted by Jovi Schnell

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Client: Art In Embassies Program

Location: Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro

Completion date: 2012

Artwork budget: $51,500

Project Team

Art Consultant

Virginia Shore

Art in Embassies Program

Industry Resource

Stephen Miotto

Miotto Mosaics

Artist

Jovi Schnell

Overview

“The Valley of the Lilacs”, 7 x 11.5 ft. Porcelain & glass mosaic mural commissioned through the Art in Embassies Program (AIEP). Fabricated and installed by Miotto Mosaics in 2012. Mural is located on the exterior wall of US Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia. The spirit of the work was in direct response to the visual influences the artist experienced during an exploratory visit to Belgrade through the generosity of the AIEP.

Goals

The objective of the commission was to create a work inspired by Serbian culture. Throughout the design process the artist set out to incorporate a variety of influences that she had documented and discovered during her travels there which included the byzantine era mosaics and distinctive grammar of botanical motifs found in traditional costume and kilim on view at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade. The works title is taken from the medieval Serbian myth, the "Valley of the Lilacs", a love story whose floral lore has taken on the symbolism of ambassadorial good will and diplomatic ties throughout generations and still functions in the cultural imagination today through the act of planting Lilac trees. By choosing to place the mosaic on the outside of the embassy the artist’s aim was to have the work serve as a kind of functionary gateway extending the ethos of its influences to the embassy.

Process

The artist was selected for the commission by Virginia Shore, chief curator at the U.S. Department of State, Art in Embassies Program. Artist and curator then traveled to Belgrade, Serbia for an exploratory and inspirational research period, that included visiting museums, historical sites of interest and the new U.S. Embassy still under construction to determine the possible locations for the work being commissioned. Once the artist established the mosaic material and exterior location for the work the AIEP then selected and worked closely with Miotto Mosaics of New York throughout the phases of production and installation of the mosaic mural.