Ceiling Art of Room XX by Miguela Barcelo

April 8, 2009

On november 18th, the spanish government officially presented miquel barceló’s latest art installation in the
UN’s palace of nations in geneva. the controversial work of art is a massive sculptural installation located on the domed ceiling of the building’s newly created human rights and alliance of civilizations chamber. the work consists of multi-coloured stalactite forms that appear to be dripping from the ceiling. however controversy over how the work was paid for has overshadowed its artistic significance.

Miquel Barceló’s work often features natural elements and imagery but the chamber’s ceiling takes this idea literally by recreating the natural stalactite forms, albeit through the artist’s lens. barceló has revealed that the concept for the project came to him while he was in africa. at the unveiling barceló explained, ‘on a day of immense heat in the middle of the sahel desert, I recall with vivacity the mirage of an image of the world dripping toward the sky’. the vivid idea later took shape as he planned out the work.

While the concept of the work was solely Barceló’s, the project’s scale demanded assistance. to begin with, construction crews demolished the chamber’s existing ceiling and replaced it with a newly designed version
that could support the weight of the sculpture. Barceló and a team of engineers and architects created this new elliptic domed ceiling that is made from extra-strength aluminium. once in place barceló and his team of 20 assistants began construction of the sculpture.

The work began by building a raised floor that allowed the team to work closer to the high ceiling. then a plaster substance was applied to the ceiling in a variety of ways with a special consistency that created the cave-like forms. Barceló consulted with particle science laboratories to ensure this mixture was the correct consistency. This material was mostly applied by hand but also using non-traditional tools like paintball guns.
once the entire ceiling was covered in the plaster and all the dripping forms were complete, the ceiling was
allowed to set.

35 tons of paint was then brought onto the sight to apply to the artwork. the paints used were made with special pigments sourced from all over the world. The paints were applied to the ceiling with special spray tools, as well as common objects like brooms for touch-ups. A series of different colours were applied to the ceiling. Red, green, yellow, blue and almost every colour conceivable was applied to the ceiling as if the paints had exploded onto it. This multi-coloured layer was allowed to dry and the second coat was applied. Unlike the vibrant hues of the first coat, the second on used only a single greyish blue tone. Furthermore, the second coat was applied form only one direction. Because only one side was exposed to the directional spray, the other side was left bare, revealing the multi coloured first layer. Barceló has used this directional painting technique in his artwork for almost 20 years.

After 13 months of work the ceiling of the UN chamber was complete.

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