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United Nations Art Collection

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 and other duty stations, making the UN and its international territories a "fine small museum".

Presentation of gifts by member states

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.

Themes, functionality and symbolism

The official gifts to the United Nations by its member states epitomize the ideals, significance and values of the UN as an international organization.

Representations of love, respect and peace

Chagall stained-glass window

In 1964, a 15 foot by 12 foot stained glass window by Marc Chagall was donated to the United Nations by its own staff members and by Chagall himself to commemorate Dag Hammarskjöld, who served as United Nations Secretary-General from 1953 until his death in 1961. The stained glass memorial contains many symbols representing love and peace themes.

Golden rule mosaic

In 1985, as a representative of the United States, then first lady Nancy Reagan presented a mosaic to the United Nations to celebrate the organization's 40th anniversary. The Golden Rule mosaic was a creation of Venetian artists and was based on a painting by Norman Rockwell. Depicting people of all races, religion, creed and hue, the mosaic imparts the message to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

Japanese peace bell

A symbol of peace, the Japanese Peace Bell was a gift of the people of Japan to the United Nations (1954), and is rung at two different times a year: on the first day of Spring and on every opening day in September of the annual sessions of the General Assembly. The bell is also sounded on special occasions such as when the United Nation celebrated the International Day of Peace on September 21 2006. The bell was also rung on October 4 1966 to mark the one-year anniversary of Pope Paul VI's visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Swords into plowshares statue

In 1959, a bronze statue promoting the slogan "Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares" was donated by the Soviet Union to the United Nations. It was sculpted by Evgeniy Vuchetich to represent the human wish to end all wars by converting the weapons of death and destruction into peaceful and productive tools that are more beneficial to mankind.

Conservation and maintenance

The main entity responsible for the conservation of the collection is the UN Arts Committee. 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.


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