Iconic Tapestry of Picasso’s “Guernica” Is Gone From the UN

February 26, 2021

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The iconic tapestry of Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” is gone from its place of honor outside the U.N. Security Council in the United Nations headquarters complex overlooking New York’s East River.

The painting “Guernica”, considered one of Picasso’s masterpieces and by many art critics as perhaps the most powerful anti-war painting in history, hangs in the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. The tapestry of the painting, woven by Atelier J. de la Baume-Durrbach, was considered a perfect artwork for the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body charged with ensuring international peace and security.

The United Nations said in a letter to the Security Council obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday that the tapestry was commissioned in 1955 by former U.S. vice president and New York governor Nelson Rockefeller and offered to the U.N. on loan in 1984.

The Rockefeller family donated the land to build the U.N. complex after the world body was founded on the ashes of World War II, in the words of the U.N. Charter, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

During the U.N. building’s renovations that began in 2009, the tapestry was returned to the Rockefeller Foundation for safekeeping. It was reinstalled in September 2013 when the renovations were completed, according to the letter from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ chief of staff, Maria Luiza Viotti.

“Mr. Nelson A. Rockefeller, Jr., who owns the `Guernica’ tapestry, recently notified the United Nations of his intention to retrieve it,” she wrote on Wednesday. “Following his notification, the tapestry was returned to Mr. Rockefeller earlier this month.”

Rockefeller is the son of the late Nelson Rockefeller and his late wife “Happy.”

Viotti said the U.N. will have its Arts Committee review options for art to replace “Guernica” and fill the now empty yellow wall outside the Security Council chamber.

“I am bringing this matter to your attention in light of the prominent location of the `Guernica’ tapestry and its iconic association with the Security Council,” she said.

By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press


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