Call it a case of addition by subtraction. On January 23, 2003, a tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica was infamously hidden by behind a baby blue banner at the UN headquarters in New York as Colin Powell tried to sell another war in Iraq to the world. While they did avoid a visual backdrop that would foreshadow the horrors to come, a new generation was inadvertently introduced to this epic piece of political art, which remains as timeless as war itself.
With the United Nations building under construction, the tapestry — commissioned by Norman Rockwell and based on the original mural-sized canvas Picasso created during the Spanish Civil War — has been moved to the Whitechapel Gallery in East London. Following two years of its own renovations, the redesigned Whitechapel will reopen on April 5.
It is a reunion of sorts for the two cultural institutions. The Whitechapel was one of the first galleries to show the original work after its creation in 1937, arriving on the day the Munich Agreement was signed. Over 70 years later, the work hangs in an exact recreation of the Security Council chamber, flanked by other anti-war tapestries from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Entitled The Nature of the Beast, the show is curated by Goshka Macuga, a London-based Polish artist well known for her sculptural installations of artifacts and photographs derived from art history and politics.
The Nature of the Beast runs from April 5, 2009 – April 18, 2010. Admission is free. For more information visit the Whitechapel’s website.