The National Museum of American Diplomacy, in partnership with the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, is pleased to present Treaties on De-Fences by Jorge Otero-Pailos. In 2017, the U.S. government decommissioned the Eero Saarinen-designed Cold War-era Embassy in Oslo, Norway. This exhibition explores Otero-Pailos’ artistic intervention on this modernist masterpiece, a landmark he helped preserve.

On display are sculptures created by Otero-Pailos using the steel fence that once guarded the embassy, an artifact the artist considered historically significant and that would have otherwise been destined for the scrapyard. It also showcases a book containing 51 limited edition prints, some of which are framed and displayed on the walls. The prints are inspired by the diplomatic treaties signed between the United States and Norway, as are the titles of the sculptures,
which are derived from these historical documents.

The installed treaties on de-fences exhibits featuring sculptures on pedestals
“Treaties on De-Fences” by Jorge Otero-Pailos

This exhibition runs concurrently with Analogue Sites, Otero-Pailos’ public art exhibition on Park Avenue in New York City. The installation, on view through October 2024, comprises three of the larger sculptures created out of the fence. They are located on East 53rd, East 66th, and East 67th Streets, near the notable landmarks of the Seagram Building, and the Park Avenue Armory.

Otero-Pailos conceived these artworks in order to spark a national conversation about the preservation of Cold War U.S. embassies, which were originally designed to encourage goodwill towards the United States through their freely-accessible public spaces. The exhibition comes at a moment when many of these embassies are being decommissioned and sold, and calls for reimagining their future while honoring their original intent.

Meet the Artist

Jorge Otero-Pailos is an American-Spanish artist, preservation architect, scholar, and educator renowned for pioneering experimental preservation practices. He employs artistic methods, informed by advanced technologies, materials research, and interdisciplinary collaborations to expand the range of objects that are valued as cultural heritage and to develop new ways of caring for those objects. His wide-ranging artistic practice finds expression through materials like airborne atmospheric dust, smells, sounds, and architectural fragments.

In this video, the artist Jorge Otero-Pailos describes his process and the inspiration behind the sculptures and the book.

The Sculptures

The sculptures on display were created by the artist from the steel fence from the Cold War-era Embassy in Oslo, Norway.

In the audio clip below, Jorge Otero-Pailos discusses the importance of embassies as symbols of diplomacy and the meaning behind the name of the exhibition, Treaties on De-Fences.

The Artist‘s Book

The centerpiece of the exhibit is the artist’s book Treaties on De-Fences. It contains prints created by the artist that are inspired by the treaties from which the sculptures derive their names.

In the audio clip below, Jorge Otero-Pailos describes the book and reflects on the design of the embassy building.

The Prints

Below are a selection of prints from the book that are on display in the exhibition.

The prints are inspired by diplomatic treaties between the United States and Norway, enacted during the period when the fence was erected (2002-2019).

They span a broad spectrum of topics, including space cooperation, the peaceful utilization of atomic energy, international Arctic cooperation, taxation compliance, social security agreements, and aviation safety, to name a few. These official documents served as a point of departure for Otero-Pailos’ research and creative process.

The Symbolism of the Fence

The U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway in 2006. Photo courtesy of Bjørn Smestad/Flickr.

In this audio clip, Jorge Otero-Pailos discusses the significance of the fence in Eero Saarinen’s design.

close-up of a steel fence
A close-up of the steel fence outside the old U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway. Photo courtesy of Jorge Otero-Pailos.

The Exhibition

Our Partners

The exhibition, Treaties on De-Fences, is presented by the National Museum of American Diplomacy in partnership with and through the generosity of the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies and the Ford Foundation, with additional funding provided by Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. The exhibition was conceptualized, curated, and produced in collaboration with Otero-Pailos Studio.

About the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE)

The Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE) is a public-private partnership dedicated to providing permanent works of American art for U.S. embassies worldwide. For 38 years, FAPE has contributed to the U.S. Department of State’s mission of cultural diplomacy by partnering with American artists whose works encourage cross-cultural understanding within the diplomatic community and the international public.

About Otero-Pailos Studio

Otero-Pailos Studio, led by husband and wife team Jorge Otero-Pailos and Laurence Lafforgue, explores the intersection of art, architecture, and preservation, by creating artworks and producing public exhibitions that expand the range of objects valued as cultural heritage and collaborating on the creative restoration and interpretation of landmark sites.