United Nations Art Collection

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]

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]

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]


  • In 1952, a pair of Fernand Léger murals was installed in the General Assembly Hall.[8]
  • War and Peace, two paintings by Brazilian artist Candido Portinari. It does not feature any weapons, but instead features the suffering of victims from war, which illustrates the barbarity of combat. The contrast between the elements of chaos and harmony show how important it is to maintain peace and attempt to end violent conflicts.
  • The Japanese Peace Bell was presented to the United Nations in June 1954 by the United Nations Association of Japan. It was cast from coins collected by people from 60 different countries including children, and housed in a structure resembling a Shinto shrine, made of cypress wood. The bell is rung twice a year: on the first day of Spring, at the Vernal Equinox, and on 21 September to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly.[10]
  • Single Form is a sculpture done by Barbara Hepworth in 1964 as a memorial to the UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld after his death in an air crash in Africa in 1961.

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.[15] However, about 50 gifts, partly close to dissolution, are stored in the basement; and in some cases, have been so for decades.[16]


  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 Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., 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. Garten, UN Photo/Mark (24 October 2005). "Chagall Peace Window Dedication Ceremony". www.unmultimedia.org. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  7. Chagall Stained-Glass, United Nations Cyber School Bus, United Nations, UN.org, 2001 Archived April 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., 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 Archived March 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., retrieved on: August 4, 2007
  10. "Japanese Peace Bell". United Nations Cyberschoolbus. New York: United Nations. 2001. Archived from the original on 2010-07-10. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  11. 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
  12. "Art and Architecture at the UN". Retrieved 9 August 2010.
  13. "In praise of ... Guernica". The Guardian. 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
  14. David Cohen, Hidden Treasures: What's so controversial about Picasso's Guernica?, Slate.com Retrieved October 17, 2010
  15. Maecenas World Patrimony Foundation Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine., CelestialSphere.ch, 2005, retrieved on: August 2, 2007
  16. Frithjof Ehm, "Art of the World. The Art Collection of the United Nations" Archived 2011-01-02 at the Wayback Machine., in: Prague Leaders Magazine N° 1/2010, p. 77-79.
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