New U.N. art work raises controversy

Tue Nov 18, 2008 6:26pm EST
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By Jonathan Lynn

GENEVA (Reuters Life!) - A stunning work of art dubbed a 21st century Sistine Chapel donated to the United Nations is stirring a controversy over whether aid money should have been used to cover part of its cost.

The United Nations inaugurated a refurbished meeting room, the gift of Spain, at its European headquarters on Tuesday.

Formerly known simply as Room XX, the new Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Chamber is certain to be a highlight of visits to the U.N.'s art-deco building near Lake Geneva.

The floor and walls of the circular chamber are carpeted with champagne-colored material.

But it is the ceiling that is really striking.

Miquel Barcelo, one of Spain's leading contemporary artists, has turned the dome of the chamber into a dazzling cave, complete with stalactites, in every imaginable color.

Barcelo, from the Spanish island of Majorca, worked on the project for two years with 20 assistants, using hundreds of tonnes of paint.

The chamber was inaugurated by the King and Queen of Spain, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the prime ministers of Spain and Turkey, Swiss president and the spiky-haired artist.   Continued...