The art collection of the United Nations

Origins, institutional framework and ongoing tensions

Authored by: Mafalda Dâmaso

The Routledge Handbook of Global Cultural Policy

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138857827
eBook ISBN: 9781315718408
Adobe ISBN:


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The United Nations Art Collection, exhibited in the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York and in other duty stations worldwide, is mostly composed of official gifts offered to the UN by its member states. This chapter will argue that the collection foregrounds the core contradiction of the UN, that is, between its international values and responsibilities and its modus operandi, which remains nation-centric. The chapter will describe the origins of the collection, analyse its current institutional framework, describe how it reflects the organisational contradictions of the UN and identify the audiences of the collections. Throughout this analysis, the art collection will emerge as a platform in which the member states and the UN deploy soft power – a notion that is briefly related to that of cultural diplomacy.

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