Described as offering visitors the “the opportunity to turn their attention away from mass art collections and encourage them to consider, in the spirit of diplomacy, the artistic variety of our world,” I thought the UN Art Tour would be a pleasant indoor field trip, and so invited a group of friends to join me. I placed unanswered calls, and sent unanswered emails to the UN Tour Office, requesting more information and attempting to secure a private tour. In the end I decided to just “wing it.”
Our tour began outdoors with an introduction to the UN, a view of the Member State flags, and so forth. Next we toured a General Meeting Room from the plexiglass-ed box seats, where a technical seminar was underway. (The photo doesn’t show it, but a dude in the front row was playing video games on his laptop.) We did not get to see the General Assembly Meeting Room, though. Bummer.
From the meeting room we rode in “culturally protected” elevators (from the 1970’s) to view a short documentary on the role of UN Peacekeepers in war-ravaged places like Syria and Mali.
Another short feature told the story of Malala. To quote Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, “What the Taliban fears most is a young girl with a book.”
We then investigated a standard-issue family size refugee tent and examples of daily meals for a family of four persons. Some refugee families have been living in conditions like this long past the desired time after which they should be able to return home.
Equally as humbling were the galleries of Children in Arms and Human Trafficking.
The last two stops on our UN Art Tour tour were all about the role of the UN with respect to nuclear issues. First, a pause outside the IAEA offices to recognize the shared 2005 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the IAEA and its Director General, Mohamed Elbaradei.
Then, a little-too-political-for-my-tastes discussion of the CTBTO and nuclear weapons testing.
In short, the only art we saw was along the corridors that we were whisked through for the not-as-advertised UN Art Tour, with no time to examine or otherwise “consider, in the spirit of diplomacy, the artistic variety of our world.” Before the tour ended, though, I took the opportunity to suggest to the Secretary General, “You may want to include a little art in your UN Art Tour.” Maybe next time.