News: "Art or Aid" might be the question at the UN next week

Project Barcelo: Art or Aid?

Next week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Spain's King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will unveil a newly decorated "Chamber for Human Rights and the Alliance of Civilizations" at UN HQ in Geneva.

The room is decorated by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo, and is seen as one of his most important works so far. The ceiling created by Barcelo has been compared with Michelangelo's work at the Sistine Chapel. It turns the room into a cave dripping with thousands of multicoloured stalactites and is swept over by a stormy sea.

"The cave is a metaphor for the agora, the first meeting place of humans, the big African tree under which to sit to talk, and the only possible future: dialogue, human rights," Barcelo explains, who worked for 13 months on the art piece. He used over 100 tons of paint, specially designed equipment, and got help from specialists in various disciplines, including from particle physics laboratories, engineers, architects and specialists in heritage restoration.

Project Barcelo: Art or Aid?

The renovation of the room cost nearly 20 million euros ($25 million), 60 percent of which was covered by sponsors. The rest was paid for by the Spanish government, including 500,000 euros ($600,000) allegedly taken from a development aid fund.

"Art has no price," Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said, alluding to criticism from the Spanish conservative opposition which said the money should have been used for vaccinating children or opening water holes in developing countries. (Full)

[Ed: I am not sure if a ceiling filled with needles and pins pointing will create a conducive environment for a room destined for debates on "Human Rights and the Alliance of Civilizations". Spain should do well to explain if indeed the funds did come from their aid kitty. If so, they would have done better by getting some street graffiti artists in!]

Picture courtesy Art Knowledge News and REUTERS/Denis Balibouse


Voegtli 16 November, 2008 05:18  

Hello Peter,

Thank you for your comment and your "deblock" offer. Everything is sorted out now. And my "dog biting its own tail" was a second degree thing.


Anonymous,  17 November, 2008 10:09  

Interesting article Peter. I've always wondered how the UNHQ made decisions about where to put the artworks that States and Peoples give to it (after reading this). There must be some kind of Positioning sub-Committee, to avoid embarrassing diplomatic incidents.

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