When a 25ft tapestry replica of Pablo Picasso’s anti-war painting ‘Guernica’ was removed from the United Nations by its owner a year ago after more than three decades there, diplomats mourned the exit stark rendition of a work of art that poignantly reflected the main purpose of the organization.
“It’s horrible, horrible that he’s gone,” Secretary General António Guterres said at the time.
Nelson A. Rockefeller Jr., a business executive and scion of the family who commissioned and owned the tapestry, has offered no public explanation.
Now it turns out the disappearance was temporary. The tapestry was hung up at its longtime home outside the Security Council Chambers on Saturday, under a new arrangement announced by Mr Rockefeller and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
They said in a statement that under a long-term loan to the United Nations, Mr Rockefeller is the tapestry’s steward and that it would be donated to the National Trust, who “will coordinate its exhibition in other places in the United States”. United States and around the world.
Mr Rockefeller said he made a mistake a year ago in not explaining the removal of the tapestry, which was done to clean and preserve it – always with the aim, he said , to display the tapestry in public again, not just at the United Nations but elsewhere.
“Put simply, at that time there was a misunderstanding,” he said in a phone interview. After the tapestry was removed, Mr Rockefeller said, he wrote to Mr Guterres, “explaining what my intention had been”.
“I can certainly understand how the UN and the secretary-general have developed a close and strong association with it,” he said.
Mr. Guterres expressed his thanks in a statement released by his office, citing a letter he wrote to Mr. Rockefeller after learning in December that the tapestry would be returned. “This is good news as we end a difficult year of global hardship and conflict,” he said.
The canvas tapestry is a rendering of an original work that Picasso painted in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. After a 42-year stay at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the painting was transferred to a museum in Madrid in 1981.
It depicts the bombing of Guernica, Spain, by Nazi aircraft which killed or injured a third of the town’s population. The painting’s haunting images of humans and animals made “Guernica” a powerful symbol of the atrocities of war.
Mr. Rockefeller, the son of Nelson Rockefeller, the former vice-president and governor of New York, said he always retained his own affinity for tapestry, ever since his father helped him write an essay by eighth grade on it.
After his father’s death in 1979, he said, “It was very meaningful for me to continue the connection with ‘Guernica’, having one day stewardship.”
Mr. Rockefeller is the founder and CEO of Frontier Signal, Inc., a technology company that uses data science to help other companies find and recruit talented employees.
The United Nations has always had a special relationship with the Rockefellers, one of the nation’s wealthiest families, who donated the money used to purchase the 16-acre land on Manhattan’s East Side, which is the organization’s global headquarters.
UN officials never replaced the tapestry with other artwork outside of the Security Council, an area known as the “settlement” because diplomats and dignitaries often speak there in front of it. journalists and television cameras – and where for more than 35 years “Guernica” was the visual backdrop.
The naive wall of the past year, it seems in hindsight, was a hint that “Guernica” might return.
Mr Rockefeller said the United Nations would remain the tapestry’s home base. While details of his trip for a temporary exhibition elsewhere are yet to be determined, he said, “it’s important to me that it reaches a large, diverse audience across the world.”