For more than 100 years, artists from around the world have gone to Italy to represent their countries in  an event that's often called the Olympics of the art world. Like athletes, they prepare rigorously and eventually compete for the gold on an international stage.

The U.S. State Department ultimately chooses who will represent the United States. David Mees, the U.S. cultural attache in Rome, believes that Gloria offers more than just shock value. It's actually an example of an underrated tool of foreign policy, he says — something the administration refers to as "soft diplomacy."

via A Tank, An Organ And Smart Power: Allora & Calzadilla At The Venice Biennale's U.S. Pavilion : NPR.