The infrastructure's basic, corruption endemic, but the most powerful man in the country still finds time to doodle in his ministerial diary – and has a show at one of the world's leading galleries
You could debate which country has the most ornate government office: the gilded Elysée, the fortresslike Kremlin, the hulking Great Hall of the People in Beijing. But no leader has an office quite like Edi Rama, the prime minister of Albania. Covering the walls of his office in Tirana are hundreds of drawings: colourful, tightly wound abstractions, with tendrils of colour spiralling out from densely packed cores. The wallpaper, it turns out, is of the prime minister's own design. “If art cannot make politics more sane,” Rama tells me when we meet one warm Tirana night, “politics, with its insanity, can sometimes make art even better.”
Rama is that rarest thing: not a politician with artistic leanings, but a real, bona fide artist in power. A former art professor, he had no intention to enter public life – and when he did, he didn't fully abandon his initial career. Now, amid debates on EU accession and occasional squabbles with Balkan neighbours, Rama is preparing for his first US exhibition, at Marian Goodman gallery in New York. It is surely the first time a sitting head of government has nabbed a show at one of the world's leading galleries; even George W Bush, who started painting only after his presidency, couldn't get a show outside his own library in Dallas.