A Union of Opposites

Inaugurated on 18 November, 2008 in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the “Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations” room (better known as Room XX) is the home of the United Nations Human Rights Council  at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.  Part of my work involves advocacy at the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms, so Room XX  is a place I visit regularly.  (Photos are not allowed, but I snuck these photos with my phone anyway.)

May:  At the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland
At the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland

Spanish abstract artist Miquel Barceló created a a massive work of art for the ceiling of the room with paint composed of pigments from around the world.  More than 30 tons of paint were sprayed on the 1,500-square-meter dome ceiling, with the many layers of paint creating a textured rainbow of stalactites.  Depending on where you are in the room, the colors of the stalactites change based on perspective.

Barceló  describes his work in this way:

“All of it is a sea upside down, but it is also a cave.

The complete union of opposites,the ocean surface of the Earth and its most concealed cavities.”

6 thoughts on “A Union of Opposites

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I kept trying to figure out what was making the color and texture in the first image – wow, paint! It does look like stalagmites and the colors must constantly change with the light. Kind of fitting giving the constant changes in the world.


    1. It really is a massive and unique piece of public art that is very fitting given the global discussions and debate that take place in that room. There was some criticism of the UN at the time for spending millions of dollars on art, but it was in fact donated by the Spanish government. Thanks so much for your comment.!


    1. Thanks for your comment. No, I didn’t get in trouble. I don’t think the UN security enforce that rule very strictly. I didn’t take a picture until I noticed others – including Human Rights Council delegates – taking pictures. (At least I try to be discreet!)


    1. It’s pretty cool. Even though I had seen it many times, I actually didn’t know about the symbolism or technique until I happened to go on the official tour of the Palais des Nations. Glad I did. Thanks for your comment!


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