Artists Unite Issue

October 12, 2006

what better location for political art?

Filed under: Articles — Peter Ferko @ 7:52 am

On the occasion of Open House New York, a celebration of New York City’s built environment, which comes around once a year, I squeezed in a trip to the UN, which I think comes around almost never. I was surprised at my feelings of internationalism (I guess that’s what you would call the U.N. equivalent of “patriotism”) in the space. While the “soft” quality of what goes on in a body that must gain approval of 191 member nations is evident, the spirit of good intention is also evident. With that preface, I will share a few images of the art that is making its home in these historic halls and gardens.

The tone was set at the front door by the powerful sculpture, Non-Violence, by Carl Fredrik Reutersward, a gift of Luxembourg.

The Italian government presented one of Arnaldo Pomodoro’s spheres, Sphere within a Sphere, 1991/1993, which sits on the promenade across from “the gun.” Pomodoro’s pieces, one of which is present in the Vatican, strike me as the quintessential symbol of the triumph of machine over man, e.g., the Borg in Star Trek, or birth of the machine age, but their geode quality is an satisfying organic juxtaposition to the mechanical foreboding of their gears and hints at a future in which the mechanical age is long fossilized.

Inside, there are some interesting exhibitions. The evident interest in global warming at the UN shows not only in the stacks of Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, in the bookstore, but in the special exhibition in the entrance lobby. There are photos of Greenland towns that no longer have frozen winter seas and other evidence of warming. Our Planet, a sculpture by Anamaeha Hito and Rio Manu Hito is straight to the point.

The classic view of the UN, from countless movies and other images is still there in the meeting rooms. They have an ageless allure, like a 62 Porche Roadster.

The building is gorgeous, in modernist tradition, but this building talk can be for another post…

There is currently a Greek exhibition on the olive. It’s thorough: history, commerce, art, olympics. The curation is too literal, probably, but pieces stand out, like this one from Andreas Vousouras (this is a detail of Untitled, 2005, mixed media).

And coincidental to our squirrel bridge discussion about the meeting of design and art, the designer of the olympic torch for the 2004 Greek games had this to say…

The leaves were truly beautiful as marks in the exhibition window.

The gardens are a rare point of open environment in New York City. Out on the lawn that overlooks the East River, an unusual project winds down the walkway. By political cartoonist Ranan Lurie, the Uniting Painting, 2005 starts inside (it’s visible in the upper right corner of the above photo of the catilevered balconies) and makes its way through the building outside to the river. A case of concept surpasing form, the painting itself didn’t do anything for me. The artist, however, is comendable in his vision.

A highlight work was not contemporary, but Social Realist allegory, We Shall Beat Our Swords Into Plowshares, 1959, by E. Vuchetich, a gift of the Soviet Union. The gorgeous sculpture hit me as extraordinarily ironic, historically speaking, and fascinating that it holds such a place of honor in the UN compound.

I left my too brief visit thinking ‘I will have to make a point of visiting this honorable location more often in the future.’

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