The NATO Archives revisits the Alliance’s international arts heritage

  • 01 Jun. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 28 Jul. 2016 09:55

As NATO prepares to move to its newest headquarters in Brussels, the NATO Archives took a look back at the Alliance’s international arts heritage with an exhibition featuring the national artworks gifted for the decoration of the first new NATO headquarters built at Porte Dauphine, Paris in 1959.

The presentation of “Le triomphe de la Paix”, a large-scale tapestry created by Belgian artist Roger Somville, to the North Atlantic Council in the conference hall of the first new NATO headquarters at Porte Dauphine in Paris on 3 June 1965.

Using archival documents, letters, photographs, speeches and in some cases the actual artworks themselves, the exhibition restored the original contexts of these national gifts to highlight the role that each played in giving NATO’s Porte Dauphine headquarters a unique sense of charm, character and internationalism. Ranging in style from the classic to the contemporary, these works of art served as aesthetic ambassadors for their respective countries, promoting cultural heritage and boosting national prestige within the shared living space of the North Atlantic Alliance.

Wayne J Bush, the Assistant Secretary General for Executive Management and Chair of the Archives Committee, opened the proceedings by remarking that the exhibition not only honored the legacy of NATO’s arts heritage but also served as a timely introduction for the new NATO HQ Arts Programme, an initiative that encourages the creation of public works of art inspired by the Alliance. The news of the Arts Programme was welcomed by François de Kerchove d’Exaerde, the Permanent Representative of Belgium to NATO, whose speech acknowledged the importance of the programme as a vehicle of cultural exchange in the Alliance and the role that the new NATO headquarters would play as a site for artistic collaboration and display. The story of Belgium’s original gift to NATO of “Le triomphe de la paix”, the large-scale tapestry by Roger Somville in 1965 was invoked by Ambassador de Kerchove d’Exaerde as an example of the creative and spectacular ways that Art can be used to commemorate the Alliance.

A commemorative book cataloguing all of the national gifts that adorned NATO headquarters at Porte Dauphine was specially published in collaboration with the NATO Graphics and Printing Studio. A video featuring rare photos detailing the labor-intensive creation of the mural mosaic by Turkish artist Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu (1913-1975) was also produced for the exhibition. Digital versions of these supplements are accessible through the appropriate links on the right column of this web page.