First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
Remarks for the Opening of the Sculpture Exhibition
East Room, The White House

January 5, 1996

It is an honor and a delight to have all of you here today. I am so sorry the government shutdown in November forced us to postpone the original opening and deeply regret any inconvenience the sudden postponement may have caused you.

And while we are again in the middle of another partial shutdown, we are finally able to hold this ceremony because the White House appropriations bill was passed.

I am happy to report to you that this exhibit did open in October, in time for the Arts and Humanities celebration at the White House. At last a thousand people had an opportunity to see the sculptures then, and thousands more were able to appreciate them during the December holidays.

Today, we celebrate the third in a series of exhibitions of Twentieth Century American Sculpture in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden at the White House. As most of you know, this exhibit was inspired, in part, by Mrs. Onassis. My much too brief friendship with her left an indelible impression. The garden is a lasting, living tribute to the extraordinary artistic and cultural contributions she made to the White House.

The pieces in this exhibition represent the diverse and rich talents of our country's sculptors from the West and Southwest. I am thrilled that the seven living sculptures whose works are exhibited could be with us today. These beautiful and intriguing sculptures embody the transformations of both twentieth century art and society. Among them is an abstract sculpture by Georgia O'Keefe, whom many of us casual art lovers knew only as a painter. In a house full of two-hundred year-old antiques, it also is wonderful to have objects that represent the era we live in.

The President and I believe that art should be accessible to everyone because it has the power to evoke in each of us a deeper understanding of our lives and of the world around us. And during this particularly difficult time in Washington and in our country, art can make our spirits soar and remind us of life's possibilities -- of our powers to imagine and to create.

It gives me great satisfaction and joy to know that the thousands of visitors who pass through the White House have been and will be able to look out the Colonnade window and share in the extraordinary power of these sculptures.

I also want this exhibition to celebrate the sculptors themselves. Anne Tucker once said "All art requires is courage." So on behalf of the President and myself, I would like to thank the artists who are featured in this exhibit.

I would also like to thank and recognize the people who have made this exhibit possible. It took enormous generosity, dedication, and wisdom to make this happen.

(Special thanks to Peter C. Marzio, Director, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Alison de Lima Greene, Curator at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and of this exhibit; the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation; J. Carter Brown; the lending institutions; White House Preservation Committee and the White House Historical Association; White House Curator Rex Scouten; The Association of Art Museum Directors and its president Sylvia Williams)

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