Heritage Analysts At The UN’s Durbin Conference: The Sistine Chapel? You be the Judge

Brett Schaefer /

Last November the U.N. Human Rights Council made news in an unexpected way. The newly renovated chamber housing the Council featured a vast piece of artwork on it’s ceiling crafted by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo. According to Barcelo, the 16,000-square-foot ceiling artwork reminded him of “an image of the world dripping toward the sky”. To the Spanish, who found out that the $23 million dollar artwork was paid for in part with government funds intended to help developing countries, it looked more like their tax dollars swirling down the drain.

The ceiling has been described, immodestly, as the Sistine Chapel of the 21st century.

Since the Durban Review Conference on racism this week in Geneva, being a U.N. affair, involved a rather long mid-day siesta there was ample opportunity to visit this masterpiece. Words leapt to mind, but perhaps not the ones hoped for by the artist. Underwhelming is probably the kindest. The ceiling looks like something imagined and constructed by children of modest artistic ability given a limitless supply of paper mache and bright paint. But you be the judge.