Pablo Picasso’s iconic ‘Guernica’ tapestry, considered by many art critics to be perhaps the most powerful anti-war painting in history, returned to its place of honor at the United Nations on Saturday after an absence a year that has angered and appalled many diplomats and UN staff.
The painting’s tapestry, woven by Atelier J. de la Baume-Durrbach, was re-hung on Saturday before the Security Council, the UN’s most powerful body responsible for ensuring international peace and security. . Since February 2021, the yellow wall where it hung has been empty.
The tapestry was commissioned in 1955 by former US Vice President and Governor of New York Nelson Rockefeller and given to the UN on loan in 1984.
The Rockefeller family donated the land to build the UN complex after the world body was founded on the ashes of World War II, in the words of the UN Charter, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.
When the United Nations headquarters underwent a major renovation beginning in 2009, the tapestry was returned to the Rockefeller Foundation for safekeeping. It was relocated in September 2013 when renovations were completed.
Early last year, Nelson A. Rockefeller, Jr., the son of the late vice president and governor who owns the “Guernica” tapestry, notified the United Nations of his intention to retrieve it. The UN returned it to him in February 2021.
Rockefeller said in a statement on Saturday that the tapestry was on loan to the United Nations and that he intended to donate the work to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the future.
“The Guernica tapestry with its penetrating symbolism – its depiction of horrifying aspects of human nature – fights cruelty, darkness and also a seed of hope within humanity.” Rockefeller said in a statement. “The Guernica tapestry is meant to be experienced and interpreted, Picasso refusing to share his message when asked.”
Rockefeller said he was “delighted and deeply grateful, and my family, for the careful stewardship” of the tapestry by the United Nations and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“I am grateful that the tapestry can continue to reach a wider segment of the world’s population and amplify its ability to touch lives and educate,” he said.
In a Dec. 1, 2021, letter to Rockefeller, the UN said Guterres wrote, “This is most welcome news as we end a difficult year of global hardship and conflict.”
“The Guernica Tapestry speaks to the world of the urgent need to advance international peace and security,” the UN chief wrote. “We are honored to serve as watchful stewards of this one-of-a-kind iconic work – as we are inspired by its message.”
The original painting, Picasso’s protest against the bombing of the Basque capital of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, is in Spain.