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About the Art Program

Let Creativity Speak

People forge ideas, people mold dreams, and people create art. And this includes all people, whether they are rich or poor.

The World Bank's mission is to fight poverty worldwide. While people in many of our member countries are considered poor in economic terms, they possess invaluable hidden wealth in the form of artistic expression and creativity. The Art Program aims to showcase this wealth by giving a voice to the artists to express through their artwork the hopes and the struggles of the people in their countries.

The Art Program is part of the General Services Department and is based in Washington DC.

Who We Are and What We Do

Our small but passionate Art Program team:

  • Oversees and cares for a permanent collection in Washington, DC, comprising over 5,000 pieces of artwork, mostly by emerging artists living in our member countries.

    The Art Program offers technical assistance to Bank Country Offices in the management of their own art collections.

  • Endeavors to show the human face of development by conceptualizing and organizing art exhibitions that promote dialogue on a broad range of international issues. Past exhibitions have addressed such development issues as human trafficking, child labor, migration, social inequality, diversity, and democratization.

  • Receives an average of two proposals every day for collaborations on exhibitions, competitions or symposia from within the Bank and from external sources. The Art Program is able to implement three-to-four such projects each year.

  • Handles more than 150 new art installations on Bank premises every year, and periodically rotates the collection among the Bank’s buildings in Washington to maximize visibility and exposure of the artworks.

  • Creates and promotes a stimulating work environment, which celebrates the diversity of the World Bank’s staff and of its member countries.

  • Acquires, commissions, lends, and borrows an average of 100 works of art per year.

  • Offers a variety of guided tours, seminars, and lectures to our staff and to the public on a regular basis.
  • Organizes annual art competitions for children and teenagers on development-related themes.

  • Writes and produces its own printed or electronic materials for its exhibitions. It also produces catalogues for its multi-year, regionally-focused exhibition series.

  • Raises its own funds to operate, so that precious resources are not diverted from the operational side of the Bank.

Interested in Our Story?

The Bank has received artwork as gifts to senior managers and to the institution itself almost from the beginning. This artwork constitutes the core of the current holdings. Over the years additional artwork was acquired to decorate the Bank. The current collection is composed of artifacts from member countries, with a preference for works by emerging artists from the developing world. Many artists, after being featured in the Bank collection, have seen the value of their work appreciate significantly. The Bank does not collect for investment purposes, but rather to give artists with limited exposure access to the international art market.

The Institutional Art Program was formally established in 1997. General Services is entrusted with its long-term administration. As stated in our mission statement, “The Art Program should enhance the presence of the Bank, reaching out to a vast reservoir of artists from its member countries, through acquisitions, exhibitions, competitions, and cultural development in the visual arts. Art is one of the world’s greatest unifiers and serves as a creative means of communication. In all its activities the Institutional Art Program will act as the cultural extension of the Bank seeking to further the Bank’s mission.”

Last updated: 2012-06-01

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