STORY: UN - Rath Museum Geneva 03 September 2021
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 3 September 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
From the UN to downtown Geneva: an artistic journey of universal values
More than 200 works of art from United Nations Geneva have for the first time left the historic Palais des Nations to make the journey across the city to Musée Rath, where they will be on display until 10 October 2021.
Entitled “DIVERS EGALES UNIS” (Different, Equal, United), the exhibition celebrates the values of multilateralism; its explicit aim is to engage the citizens of Geneva in reflecting about the future.
“People in Geneva, living here in Geneva, they know that there is a Palais des Nations. Maybe they even know they can visit it, but very few of them take this visit,” says Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General of the United Nations at Geneva. “So, we started thinking, ‘What we could do now to attract the attention of the citizens of Geneva and visitors of Geneva?’”
The exhibition is free and open to the public. “We decided that we might have an exhibition in this city which will be open for everybody - to tempt people to come later and visit us and, of course, to speak about the values of the United Nations in this very important period.”
Since the last assembly meeting of the UN’s Geneva-based predecessor, the League of Nations, was held 1946, the show was initially conceived as a tribute for the UN’s 75th anniversary year. While celebrating the links between the Swiss city - sometimes referred to as the “city of peace”, or “peace capital” - and international organizations, the artworks on display are also intended to put the spotlight on some important priorities of multilateral diplomacy.
“For us, it's exactly an opportunity to engage with citizens of Geneva and to see what we can do more on Sustainable Development Goals, on human rights, on disarmament, on fighting the climate change…And of course, art is a very important instrument, because it really speaks about the values of the United Nations and it's important to everybody,” Ms. Valovaya says.
Masterpieces such as Robert Rauchenberg’s Tribute 21, which celebrates humanitarian work, Otavio Roth’s woodcuts illustrating the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Günther Uecker’s “From Darkness into Light”, Mimmo Rotella’s “Pax” and Jacek Jarnuszkiewicz’s “Ecce Homo II” are expected to be main attractions for the public.
Yet there are other less-well known works of social interest to be discovered as well: a series of photographs submitted by UN Member States to showcase women working in traditionally male-dominated jobs, for example, and portraits of some of Geneva’s leading women, by photographer Ana D. Lombard.
“I would like to say is that from this point of view, Musée Rath is an absolutely symbolic place to be, because this is the first art museum in Switzerland, and this is a museum which was created by citizens of Geneva,” says Ms. Valovaya, also mentioning how the museum was first managed by two sisters, Jeanne-Françoise and Henriette Rath in the late 1700s. “It's a fantastic story of how women in all epochs were outstanding in professions which were perceived to be male professions. That's why this year we had an exhibition which was called ‘Not a Woman's Job’, exactly speaking about women who are fantastic in what they're doing, although their professions are still perceived to be ‘not really a woman's job’,” Ms. Valovaya adds.
“We have a second part of this exhibition, ‘Women of Geneva’, who are really building Geneva; as I said, because we speaking about equality, we’re speaking about non-discrimination, speaking about the necessity to give equal rights to everybody and not to leave anybody behind,” Ms. Valovaya explains.
The exhibition, which is the brainchild of the UN Director-General, also features Palais des Nations: A Time for Reflection - photographic works by Ms. Valovaya taken at the Palais des Nations at the time of the COVID-19 lockdown; a selection of archival material from the Red Cross of Geneva and its first woman president, Alice Favre; and an artistic project by the Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD), several permanent missions and NGOs to the UN. The entire project is supported by Lian Foundation and curated by Victoria Dzodziev and Isabelle de le Court.
Ms. Valovaya believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the public’s need to be reassured by the possibilities of mutual cooperation in facing global challenges. “Not only the period when we are celebrating such an anniversary, but also the period of pandemic, when we need multilateralism, when we need United Nations, more than ever. We really want to engage people in thinking about the future,” she says, walking amid the artistic treasures of the Palais des Nations, which also include some of the distinctive vintage leather sofas from UN Geneva.
“When you see the art which was given to the United Nations by the Member States, by artists themselves, and they're all exactly speaking about how important cooperation is, how important understanding is, how important is mutual respect,” Ms. Valovaya says. “And if we have all this, then we can really be absolutely different, diverse, we can be equal, and we can be united.”