The United Nations Art Collection is a collective group of artworks and historic objects donated as gifts to the United Nations by its member states, associations, or individuals. These artistic treasures and possessions, mostly in the form of “sculptures, paintings, tapestries and mosaics”, are representative “arts of nations” that are contained and exhibited within the confines of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, United States, and other duty stations, making the UN and its international territories a "fine small museum".
Member states follow a protocol for presenting official gifts to the United Nations.
Procedures, speeches, and ceremonies, such as the unveiling of these gifts, are conducted and coordinated by the Protocol and Liaison Service. Ideally, every member nation can only present one offering, and member nations are responsible for the installation of the offered artifacts.
The official gifts to the United Nations by its member states epitomize the ideals, significance and values of the UN as an international organization.
War and Peace, two paintings by Brazilian artist Candido Portinari. It does not feature any weapons, but instead features the suffering of victims from war, which illustrates the barbarity of combat. The contrast between the elements of chaos and harmony show how important it is to maintain peace and attempt to end violent conflicts.
The Japanese Peace Bell was presented to the United Nations in June 1954 by the United Nations Association of Japan. It was cast from coins collected by people from 60 different countries including children, and housed in a structure resembling a Shinto shrine, made of cypress wood. The bell is rung twice a year: on the first day of Spring, at the Vernal Equinox, and on 21 September to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly.
The main entity responsible for the conservation of the collection is the UN Arts Committee. The United Nations is assisted, through a special mandate and regulations, by fundraising groups such as the Maecenas World Patrimony Foundation in this endeavor of preserving these artistic and international heritages. However, about 50 gifts, partly close to dissolution, are stored in the basement; and in some cases, have been so for decades.