1 February 2019
Plans are underway for the “Celestial Sphere”, a symbol of the United Nations and of International Geneva, to be brought back to its original splendour.
Installed on the lawns of the Palais des Nations since 1939, the Celestial Sphere is a masterwork of Paul H. Manship (1885-1966), an American sculptor associated with the Art Deco style, best known for his “Prometheus Fountain” at Rockefeller Center in New York. The Celestial Sphere is in the shape of an armillary sphere about four meters in diameter representing the heavens as seen from earth, displaying 840 silver stars and 64 cast bronze figures depicting characters from classical mythology representing constellations.
The restored outdoor sculpture is expected to be unveiled in late 2019/early 2020, in time to celebrate the centennial of the founding of the League of Nations.
The restoration of this intricate sculpture, one of the treasures of the UN Geneva artwork collection, will be a complex undertaking. It includes the complete repair of the precious metals and the redesign of the reflecting pool and its surrounding landscape. The restoration should also result in the sculpture’s ability to rotate like a celestial body in orbit. The well-known sculpture will be disassembled and removed from its site for about nine months.
“This magnificent work of art is essential to the story of both the United Nations and International Geneva,” said Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva. “As a symbol of international cooperation and the aspiration for world peace, the Celestial Sphere harmonizes with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals pursued today by the United Nations, International Geneva and collaborators around the world.”
An anonymous donation will fund the restoration project, to be performed by contractors selected in public bidding later this year. The exact cost of the project will not be known until public bidding has been completed.
“In view of the Celestial Sphere’s historical and artistic significance and its centrality as an icon of international cooperation, this is a project we are excited to undertake and will be proud to have completed,” said Mr. Møller.
The Celestial Sphere was installed in 1939 on the central lawn at the then recently completed headquarters of the League of Nations. The sculpture was a gift of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the League of Nations and to honor the leadership of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) who had received the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in establishing the League.
The Celestial Sphere Restoration Project aims not only to repair the Celestial Sphere physically and to restore its original sparkle, but also to reaffirm the sculpture intellectually and spiritually as a symbol of humanity’s eternal quest for universal harmony and world peace.
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