Media Center



May 9, 1999 - Washington, DC

It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you this evening to the inauguration of this remarkable exhibit. "Mastering the Millenium" has been co-organized by the Organization of American States and the World Bank in celebration of the new Millenium. This exhibit would not have been possible without the global vision and generous support of the MasterCard company and before anything else I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to them for their undying efforts.

Throughout the world, this historical moment of welcoming the new millenium, is being observed in countless ways. In fact, the plethora of millenium related activities is almost overwhelming in this age of instant communication and infinitely multiplied information.

Yet it is a meaningful moment in our history, one that calls for a re-examination of the past and contemplation of the future.

Traditionally, the artists have been the avant-guarde of our societies. They have been authentic witnesses of the times, providing insight to out history, our traditions, and to our cultural and aesthetic aspirations. They tell the story of who we are, where we have been and what we are becoming. They explore the essence of our humanity and are a link between our past and our future.

"Mastering the Millenium" presents the work of more than fifty artists of our Hemisphere. Their work offers a unique window to our contemporary world, a fresh and thought-provoking reflection of how our world is changing, the implications of technology and of mans place in the global society of the information age. Their diverse expressions identify specific cultural contexts yet simultaneously are universal in their power to communicate similar aesthetic and spiritual concerns across traditional borders.

As we walk through the exhibit we are confronted by a network of compelling images. Images that transmit a universe that is at once fragmented yet unified, dense yet transparent. An ordered disorder where various levels of meaning intersect, be it ecological, historical, political, religious, geographical or purely personal.

Certainly, many artists express their reservations and apprehensions of today’s totems of monitors and modems that rely solely on the efficiency, speed and visibility of the moment. Their work thus is an antidote to the generic vision and homogeneity of the pre-fabricated images of technology and globalization.

We are presented with images that evaporate or fade into nothingness, images that emphasize transparency and weightlessness, a fascination with the space that is void, and with a time that is non-linear; where there is the possibility of being "everywhere at one," images that speak of mans fragility and vulnerability; his feelings of solitude and isolation; and the frenetic and mechanized pace of city streets.

Everywhere we look there are provocative juxtapositions: flowers on barbed wire, a geography turned upside down where south is north and north is south; a new tower of Babel to the modern-day languages and technology.

The exhibit also presents intriguing reflections of memory: its many meanings, and its correlation in the past, present and future. In the recurring images of enclosed spaces that confine and preserve memories one senses a need to hold onto what makes us unique and distinct and to that which most closely defines our identity. Artists are not letting us forget where we came from as we embark on out journey into the 21st Century.

Through the exhibition program of the Organization of American States, our institution strives to stimulate cultural interchange among the thirty four countries of the inter-American system, as well as, to recognize the richly diverse and creative achievements of the artists of our Hemisphere. We are committed to playing an active part in ensuring that artists of our Hemisphere have opportunities to develop and share their talents.

In the realization of this project, it has truly been a privilege to work in partnership with the prestigious World Bank and its distinguished President, my colleague and friend, James Wolfensohn. Our institutions share common goals and the strong belief that a commitment to cultural projects, expressions and activities, strengthens the democratic structures of our inter-American system and the development of our world invigorates social and economic advancement in our hemisphere. By presenting this exhibit at two sites, as well as on the web, we have had a wonderful opportunity to extend the walls of our institutions and in turn have become more than just neighbors of physical proximity. I am certain that I express the hopes of all those involved in this project in saying that this exhibit marks the beginning of many years of fruitful collaboration in cultural projects and activities.

At this time I would like to thank all of you who have worked so hard to make this exhibit a reality and in particular, I thank the exhibit’s chief curator and Director of the Art Museum of the Americas, Ana Maria Escallon and to the co-curator of the exhibit and Director of the Art Program at the World Bank, Artemis Zenetou. I would also like to thank Lee Kimche, head of International Cultural Communications for her valuable work in coordinating this event.

Once again a very special thank you to MasterCard, the arts and humanities depend on partnerships with corporations with the global vision of MasterCard and with their willingness to bring the creative achievements of our best artists to as wide an audience as possible. I extend my deepest appreciation to Jean Rozwadowski, President of MasterCard’s International Latin American and Caribbean region.

Finally, it is a great pleasure and privilege to extend a most warm welcome and congratulations to the artist in the show, many of whom we are lucky to have here with us this evening. The power of your images truly contributes to the creativity of our world and strengthens the cultural fabric of our communities. For this gift you have given us we are highly appreciative.

Thank you.