The diplomacy of display: Art and international cooperation in the 1920s and 1930s
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This dissertation deals with the interplay of politics and culture in the 1920s and 1930s. By focusing on a series of international exhibitions of art that were staged at the London Royal Academy between 1927 and 1936, this study argues that it was in this period that the practice of exhibiting "national treasures" in international events was inaugurated. A wide range of transnational actors (individuals, institutions, and networks of experts that were technically separate from the government) collaborated with national authorities in organizing these cultural events. These cases exemplify how national and transnational contacts did not take place independently but instead constituted two intertwined aspects of international relations in this period. Moreover, these exhibitions put on display not only artifacts but also the internationalist policies and the practical cooperation among nations that had led to them being preserved and shown. Indeed, the national and transnational actors involved in these initiatives used art as an international language to ease ongoing political tensions; they saw exhibitions as moments of "practical cooperation" among peoples from various countries; and they used these exhibitions for what I call the "diplomacy of display" (the deliberate use of performative politics to build peaceful relations) to further a wide-range of political and cultural agendas. These ideas and practices did not disappear with the outbreak of the Second World War but instead anticipated trends that continued and whose importance persists to this day.