Magazine article UN Chronicle

An 'Element of Inspiration and Calm' at UN Headquarters

Magazine article UN Chronicle

An 'Element of Inspiration and Calm' at UN Headquarters

Article excerpt

An 'element of inspiration and calm' at UN Headquarters

"Harmony is not always, unfortunately, the prevalent characteristic of our life and work here. But the presence of great works of art, such as the one we have received today, certainly provides us with an element of inspiration and calm. I hope that the pleasure we gain from such works may also help to give us the perspective and perception which are so necessary in our difficult task here."

Before his death in 1961, then UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, who took particular pleasure in beautifying the UN Headquarters in its early years, had discussed the possibility of installing a Moore sculpture on UN grounds. More than 20 years after his original request, it finally became a reality.

Works of art from around the world abound at Headquarters. More than 130 gifts of art have been presented to the UN by its Member States. They range from small paintings to huge tapestries, from delicate wood and ivory carvings to heavy bronze doors and from ancient Indian and Egyptian art dating back more than 30 centuries to contemporary art from many exotic cultures, embellishing the halls and meeting places of the international compound.

Rated high among these art treasures are the nine great murals that adorn the walls of the Headquarters building--the work of artists fro France, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, the Dominican Republic and the United States. The best known are undoubtedly the twin murals of Fernand 'Leger on each side of the General Assembly Hall, which were presented to the UN by the American Association for the United Nations. Among the last of his works, these murals were designed in small sketches by Leger and executed in 1952 by one of his students, American artist Bruce Gregory.

In the south lobby near the delegates entrance of the General Assembly building are two murals--"War" and "Peace"--each measuring 34x46 feet by Brazilian artist Candido Portinary. Completed in 1955 and 1956, respectively, "War" is executed in dark, morbid colours, while opposite, "Peace" is painted in warm, colourful pigments.

The Security Council chamber is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful rooms at Headquarters. Designed by Norway's Arnstein Arneberg (his Government contributed the decor and furnishings), the dominant attraction of the room is the 16x26-foot mural by Norwegian artist Per Krohg. It, too, depcits many symbols of war and peace.

Man's struggle for peace and freedom from superstition is the theme of Jose Vela Zanetti's mural on the third floor of the Conference building. The Dominican artist painted it directly on the canvascovered curved wal in 1952.

In addition to the conventional murals at the UN, two mosaics are on display. A third-century Tunisian work, discovered at Haidra a quarter of a century ago, was presented in 1961 by President Habib Bourguiba.

The second mosaic panel, a gift of Morocco, was created by a Fez artist and formally presented by King Hassan II on 3 April 1963. It is done in traditional, twelfth century Andalusian style.

Among the many outstanding works created from wood are the two Balinese sculptures from the Government of Indonesia. These three-foot-tall figures represent "Peace" and "Prosperity". They stand in a small lounge outside the General Assembly Hall, commonly known as the "Indonesian Lounge" and favoured by diplmats for private chats. The satinwood "Peace" work is by an anonymous Balinese artist; "Prosperity", created by I Made Runda, depicts a woman, wearing the large earstuds of wealthy Balinese, carrying on her head a rice basket surmounted by an image of Devi Sri, the goddess of rice, who is also goddess of prosperity.

Upon entering the public lobby, visitors' attention is immediately drawn to the Foucault Pendulum, a gift from the Netherlands. Suspended from the four-story-high ceiling and moving perpetually without mechanical aid, it offers visual proof ot eh earth's rotation. …

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