United Nations Art Collection

Dove of Peace, presented by Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of his visit to the United Nations, 2 October 1979.

The United Nations Art Collection is a collective group of artworks and historic objects donated as gifts to the United Nations by its member states, associations, or individuals. These artistic treasures and possessions, mostly in the form of “sculptures, paintings, tapestries and mosaics”, are representative “arts of nations” that are contained and exhibited within the confines of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, United States, and other duty stations, making the UN and its international territories a "fine small museum".[1][2]

Presentation of gifts by member states

Member states follow a protocol for presenting official gifts to the United Nations. Procedures, speeches, and ceremonies, such as the unveiling of these gifts, are conducted and coordinated by the Protocol and Liaison Service. Ideally, every member nation can only present one offering, and member nations are responsible for the installation of the offered artifacts.[2][3][4]

Themes, functionality and symbolism

The official gifts to the United Nations by its member states epitomize the ideals, significance and values of the UN as an international organization.[5]

Peace, a stained-glass window by Marc Chagall
The Japanese Peace Bell
Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares by Yevgeny Vuchetich, 1959.
Sphere Within Sphere, 1996

Chagall stained-glass window

In 1964, a 15 foot by 12 foot stained glass window by Marc Chagall entitled Peace was donated to the United Nations by its own staff members and by Chagall himself to commemorate Dag Hammarskjöld, who served as United Nations Secretary-General from 1953 until his death in 1961.[6] The stained glass memorial contains numerous symbols representing love and peace themes.[7]

Fernand Léger murals

In 1952, a pair of Fernand Léger murals was installed in the General Assembly Hall.[8]

Portinari's War and Peace

War and Peace, two paintings by Brazilian artist Candido Portinari.

Golden Rule mosaic

In 1985, as a representative of the United States, then first lady Nancy Reagan presented a mosaic to the United Nations to celebrate the organization's 40th anniversary. The Golden Rule mosaic was a creation of Venetian artists and was based on a painting by Norman Rockwell. Depicting people of all races, religion, creed and hue, the mosaic imparts the message to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".[9]

Japanese Peace Bell

Japanese Peace Bell

Swords into Plowshares statue

In 1959, a bronze statue promoting the slogan Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares was donated by the Soviet Union to the United Nations. It was sculpted by Evgeniy Vuchetich to represent the human wish to end all wars by converting the weapons of death and destruction into peaceful and productive tools that are more beneficial to mankind.[10]

Sphere Within Sphere

In 1996, Sphere Within Sphere by sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro, was presented as a gift to the UN by Lamberto Dini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy.[11]


A tapestry copy of Pablo Picasso's Guernica is displayed on the wall of the United Nations building in New York City, at the entrance to the Security Council room.[12]

Conservation and maintenance

The main entity responsible for the conservation of the collection is the UN Arts Committee.[2] The United Nations is assisted, through a special mandate and regulations, by fundraising groups such as the Maecenas World Patrimony Foundation in this endeavor of preserving these artistic and international heritages.[13] However, about 50 gifts, partly close to dissolution, are stored in the basement; and in some cases, have been so for decades.[14]


  1. Frommer's Review: United Nations, New York City Attractions, New York City, Travel Guides, NYTimes.com, retrieved on: August 2, 2007
  2. 1 2 3 Marks, Edward B. Art... At Home in the United Nations, UN Chronicle United Nations Publications (1998), Gale Group (2004) and FindArticles.com, Winter 1998 , retrieved on: August 2, 2007
  3. Presentation of Malaysia's Gift to the United Nations, Speech by Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad, New York, September 25, 2003, PMO.gov, retrieved on: August 2, 2007
  4. The Director-General, Protocol and Liaison Service, United Nations Office at Geneva, UNOG.ch (undated), retrieved on: August 2, 2007
  5. Moore, Lawri Lala. Moorings: The World of United Nations Peoples, Disarmament Exhibit Steals Centre Stage, UN.org, 2002, retrieved on: August 2, 2007
  6. http://www.unmultimedia.org/s/photo/detail/100/0100045.html
  7. Chagall Stained-Glass, United Nations Cyber School Bus, United Nations, UN.org, 2001, retrieved on: August 4, 2007
  8. An 'element of inspiration and calm' at UN Headquarters - art in the life of the United Nations Retrieved October 13, 2010
  9. Norman Rockwell Mosaic, United Nations Cyber School Bus, United Nations, UN.org, 2001, retrieved on: August 4, 2007
  10. Swords Into Plowshares, United Nations Cyber School Bus, United Nations, UN.org, 2001 Archived July 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine., retrieved on: August 4, 2007
  11. "Art and Architecture at the UN". Retrieved 9 August 2010.
  12. David Cohen, Hidden Treasures: What's so controversial about Picasso's Guernica?, Slate.com Retrieved October 17, 2010
  13. Maecenas World Patrimony Foundation, CelestialSphere.ch, 2005, retrieved on: August 2, 2007
  14. Frithjof Ehm, "Art of the World. The Art Collection of the United Nations", in: Prague Leaders Magazine N° 1/2010, p. 77-79.
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