We are starting a series of articles on the topic of cultural diplomacy. We consider it very important to talk about initiatives in the field of art and culture, which help to see the opportunity to be enriched by diversity, the importance of respect between peoples and countries, to realize unity as the most promising way of development. And art here acts as a universal language of communication and comprehension.

Article #Art management

25 January 2023

“A Bridge Too Far” (2022), installation created by a Russian-Ukranian couple Oksana Yushko and Arthur Bondar during the Artist in Exile residency program at Ria Keburia, Kachreti, Tbilisi, Georgia.


We start with Anna Evtiugina - cultural entrepreneur, contemporary art curator, co-founder of a studio in New York, curator of residency programs at ISCP(USA) and Ria Keburia(Georgia).

Artists’ initiatives and art institutions have a special power to build relationships and create trust across borders. They have the power to stimulate people’s natural creativity by providing avenues to learn, explore, and undertake new artistic projects, or simply allowing people to participate in the creative process. Art is universal—it transcends national boundaries, helps communicate thoughts and feelings between speakers of different languages, and inspires artists to learn from various cultural traditions and histories for the sake of humanity. Art is emotionally involving, and the conveyance of shared emotions helps develop a sense of global community. Art celebrates diversity, and its respect for difference promotes tolerance in an international environment. Art is personal, so it promotes the idea that everyone’s voice matters. Finally, art encourages people-to-people relationships between individuals in different nations, which builds a platform for international collaboration. Although artists’ initiatives have many characteristics that are valuable for diplomatic purposes, the role of artists and their work in intercultural relations is overlooked and underestimated.

“A Bridge Too Far” (2022), an installation created by a Russian-Ukranian couple Oksana Yushko and Arthur Bondar during the Artist in Exile residency program at Ria Keburia, Kachreti, Tbilisi, Georgia.

The common definition of cultural diplomacy suggested by Milton Cummings is “the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples to foster mutual understanding” (Cummings, 2003). Although using art and cultural diplomacy as synonyms may not be entirely accurate, it is quite difficult to define criteria that clearly differentiate art from culture. We believe that, although art typically functions as a means of self-expression, art is also a cultural product informed by its social and political environment. Nevertheless, for the purpose of this work, I will use the term “art diplomacy” when referring to art projects (excluding educational or scientific works) that factor into cultural diplomacy.

In this paper, I aim to demonstrate how ongoing shifts in modern society affect state-organized diplomatic efforts and how artists’ initiatives may become similarly effective tools for intercultural representation and art diplomacy thanks to the extraordinary potential of their creative collaborations, transnational professional networks, and increased public trust in their personal voices. In doing so, I explore three interrelated trends in the shifting landscape of public and cultural diplomatic practices: creative collaborations as effective and necessary tools for achieving diplomatic goals, transfer of power from state to citizen, and expansion of global networks through technological advancement. To introduce these three shifts, I would like to give a scholarly overview regarding the value of art diplomacy.

“A Bridge Too Far” (2022), installation created by a Russian-Ukranian couple Oksana Yushko and Arthur Bondar during the Artist in Exile residency program at Ria Keburia, Kachreti, Tbilisi, Georgia.


The significance of art diplomacy for a country’s international cultural diplomacy is increasingly recognized by scholars and diplomats (Albro, 2013; Grincheva, 2010). According to Natalia Grincheva, “arts play such an important role in the cultural diplomacy practices” because “art always has been an expression of national cultures and traditions” (Grincheva, 2010). Additionally, art engages people “on a personal rather than political level, highlighting commonalities rather than differences, thus contributing to government policy objective of mutual understanding” (Ash, Fullman, 2004). Art creates the material culture of every nation. We see that art helps build familiarity and mutual respect between communities in different nations.

Robert Albro suggests treating “art” as a “complex cultural expression” rather than an “individual creation of aesthetic significance” (Albro, 2013). He believes it is not correct to separate “art” (as a universalizing aesthetic aspiration) from “culture” (as a localized expression of a particular people), because these specific “conception[s] of things” are not universal in different cultures. Similarly, Pierre Bourdieu contends that art is a social product shaped by its cultural and political context (Grenfell, 2007). On the other hand, it should be noted that government hierarchies may exert control over this cultural context, as art markets can be “distorted economically through public support measures” (Singh, 2010), and state-funded art diplomacy may therefore be influenced by the state’s political aims. In light of this, it is interesting to see if peer-to-peer interactions and artistic practice can genuinely improve relations between people in different countries and evade potentially detrimental ulterior motives that can cause distrust and even rejection from the representatives of targeted communities, e.g. Swedish Embassy was protested when it opened their virtual embassy to showcase art globally at Second Life platform as it was mistreated as a state-funded invasion.

"Danbas Theta Gender" (2022) AR performance created by a Russian-born US-based artist Nikita Shokhov in collaboration with a Ukranian artist Danbas (Danila Udovenko). Still from AR performance, produced by ipureland studio.

Contemporary approaches to public and cultural diplomacy revolve around creative collaboration and horizontal networks of citizens. Generally speaking, cultural diplomacy is changing in response to the trend of power shifting from hierarchies to non-state actors and further to citizens who have global interests and now can have global outreach through technological advancements. Natalia Grincheva defines art diplomacy as part of cultural diplomacy, concentrating on international exchange programs organized by visual and performing arts organizations, individual artists, and art professionals (curators and arts managers), which increase mutual understanding, appreciation, and respect for foreign cultural values and beliefs. Citing the opinions of practitioners of cultural diplomacy, Robert Albro identifies two approaches to define cultural and art policy. The first involves “specific exportable forms of expressive culture” such as music, theater, literature, dance, murals, or film, usually represented by celebrities who serve as “cultural ambassadors” in state-funded programs of intercultural exchange. The other approach takes a more geopolitical perspective that characterizes art as “the global circulation of cultural content as goods and services and with a growing proportion of content taking digital form” and as a “global consumer experience”. For the purpose of this analysis, we focus on the first concept as it represents diplomacy based on people-to-people relations.

To be continued…