Room of Human Rights

December 12, 2018
Geneva, Switzerland

Room of Human Rights and the Alliance of Civilisations ceiling (2008) by Miquel Barceló.

This is an artwork by Spanish abstract artist Miquel Barceló and it’s placed at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva.
The new Room of Human Rights and the Alliance of Civilisations has been described as the Sistine Chapel of the 21st century.

The massive conceptual artwork, a redesign of the 929 square metre dome which resembles a grotto with multicoloured stalactites, took over two years to complete, used 35,000 kg of paint and the services of 20 assistants, among them a cook and a cave expert.

“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,” Barceló explained.

“The sea is the past, the origin of the species, and the promise of a new future: emigration, travel,” he added.

To make the stalactites, some of which are up to three feet long, Barceló built a honeycomb of aluminium from which to hang resin forms. They are coloured with paint containing pigments from all over the world.

The ceiling has been a “huge technical challenge”, working with art conservationists to guarantee the solidity and longevity of the pigments, according to Barceló, who worked for a year on the project in his workshop and 13 months in Geneva.

He had to invent a special high-powered paint spray to project the paint onto the ceiling.

The renovation of the room cost nearly €20 million (SFr30.2 million), 60 per cent of which has been paid by Spanish sponsors.


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