Pro-worker art rediscovered after thirty years of pro-capitalist WTO censorship


This video is called Shut Em Down / WTO Seattle [19]99.

Remember when George W. Bush’s then US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, addressed the United Nations in New York City, with a propaganda speech aimed at starting a war in Iraq; full of what Powell himself has meanwhile admitted were lies about so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq?

Then, a reproduction in the United Nations building of Pablo Picasso‘s famous painting Guernica, which shows the horrors of military aggression, was covered up. As the Bush administration thought it might hinder Powell’s pro war speech.

Well, that was only a reproduction, not the original work. And the cover-up was over after Powell left that day.

While meanwhile, the World Trade Organization, an organization with a well deserved pro capitalist reputation, covered up many pro labour works of art for over thirty years in its headquarters in Switzerland.

From IPS news agency:

WTO Dusts Off Hidden Collection of Workers’ Art

By Gustavo Capdevila

LISBON, Nov 1 – Works of art with a powerful social message, donated by trade unions in the first half of the 20th century, will again be displayed at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) headquarters after being deliberately hidden for the past 30 years.

Paintings and pottery representing the school of socialist realism predominant in those decades in leftwing intellectual circles all over the world, and particularly in the Soviet Union [and, differently, in the USA], were covered up when the recipient of the artworks, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, ceded its building to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade GATT).

The ILO, the only tripartite (governments, trade unions and employers) agency of the United Nations, first occupied a majestic building on the shores of Lake Leman in Geneva, but transferred to larger premises in the city in the 1970s.

The former ILO headquarters was taken over by the GATT, which had the reputation of being an “exclusive country club”, and conducted itself accordingly to the end of its days, in 1994.

Proletarian art was felt to be out of place in that ambience, and it was hidden behind mirrors or layers of plaster. The artworks were covered up because “they addressed the issues of work, social justice, justice in the workplace, and the socialist realism of the 1930s,” the deputy Chief of Staff at the WTO, Víctor do Prado, told IPS.

The WTO succeeded the GATT in 1995.

“They are extremely beautiful works of art, and some are worth millions of dollars, like a painting by a U.S. artist exalting the power of the working class in the United States, which was donated by the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations),” do Prado said.

John J. Sweeney, the head of the AFL-CIO, told IPS he was not aware of the existence of this painting. “It must date back to the time before the CIO merged with the AFL,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to see it. I gather that it’s a very challenging depiction of U.S. workers.”

Do Prado said that the WTO secretariat has directed “all the coverings” to be removed, in order to display the works of art.

According to Dutch daily NRC of 10 November 2007, page 9, paper edition, the painting donated by the AFL-CIO (or by the AFL? Or by the CIO?) about labour power in the USA was by Dean Cornwell. Originally, it had been three by ten meter in size. However, the WTO had cut it up into five pieces. It was rediscovered recently in a garage. Two pieces of the original five are missing. “Still more works of art are missing”.

According to the NRC:

[A depiction of] Jesus and the workers (The Dignity of Labour by Maurice Denis, 1931), a mural by Sean Keating from Ireland, and splendid blue tile walls from Portugal about farmers’ and fishermen’s lives (Jorge Colaço [spelt wrongly on the WTO website], 1931) could stay, for some reason. That is, the then GATT director ordered them to be covered up with curtains; but someone forgot to do that.

3 thoughts on “Pro-worker art rediscovered after thirty years of pro-capitalist WTO censorship

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