U.N. Building – The Home of Peace by Martin Kippenberger (1984)

Few artists in history have been as polyvalent as Martin Kippenberger. Having touched almost every medium from poetry to sculpture (and even theatre), through which Kippenberger adopts the role of the satirical artist. However, his work is not to be taken lightly. The absurdities found in his various works of art are created from a deep understanding of the history of art, politics, and his own personal experiences. Kippenberger’s goal is to convey his ideas as accurately as he can, which is why he does not constrain himself to a particular style or medium. U.N. Building – The Home of Peace is arguably one of his most provocative works, as Kippenberger attacks the megalomaniac nature of United Nation through an ironic comment of their very own Headquarters.

The UN Building is located in New York City and was designed by a team of architects each representing their respective country. The design of the building was ultimately a combination of two propositions by Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier no less. However, it was not the artistic merit of the building that posed a problem for Kippenberger.

Firstly we must notice the way this model has been painted. By this I mean that Kippenberger has purposefully rendered the structure of the building very thin, making the building accessible and transparent. By doing this he completely undermines the authority of the institution it holds – exposing the organisation before the eyes of his viewer. In this way, Kippenberger is conducting an attack to the U.N.’s institutionalised thinking about authority by portraying their own building in a dystopian environment.

Another detail we must pay attention to is that this composition is a combination of four canvases attached together. There are many ways to interpret this collation. One possibility is that through this, Kippenberger is hinting at the inherently divisive nature of the institution. Another possibility, combined with the black and psychotic brush strokes on the outside of the building, is the fact that the very creation of this institution was due to fear and war, and countries around the world have united to protect themselves from their very own past. However, this austerity is nowhere to be seen inside this building, rather the lines because straight and almost rigid. Furthermore, the brush strokes for the windows seem to have been replaced by simply applying the paint straight from a tube giving the sensation of opacity.

So, what is Kippenberger really trying to tell us in this painting?

The answer is our own. Kippenberger has very adeptly created what can only be considered as a cypher. However this cypher is to be resolved by our own opinions and knowledge of the history of successes and failures of the United Nations. Of course, many of the details previously mentioned confirm the artist own sentiments towards this organisation (which the ironic title of the work enforces). Nonetheless, these are his own interpretation of his own painting, which we can wilfully ignore to create our own interpretation of what to some extent, are facts; that this institution was created as a response to World War II in order to prevent such a conflict from ever occurring again. In this work, Kippenberger gives us the opportunity to reflect on one of the most prominent organisations in the world – an exercise particularly relevant today.

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