picasso.art

February 5th, 2003


Art & Politics

from NYT story By MAUREEN DOWD

When Colin Powell goes to the United Nations today to make his case for war with Saddam, the U.N. plans to throw a blue cover over Picasso’s antiwar masterpiece, “Guernica.” Too much of a mixed message, diplomats say. As final preparations for the secretary’s presentation were being made last night, a U.N. spokesman explained, “Tomorrow it will be covered and we will put the Security Council flags in front of it.” Mr. Powell can’t very well seduce the world into bombing Iraq surrounded on camera by shrieking and mutilated women, men, children, bulls and horses.

Reporters and cameras will stake out the secretary of state at the entrance of the U.N. Security Council, where the tapestry reproduction of “Guernica,” contributed by Nelson Rockefeller, hangs. The U.N. began covering the tapestry last week after getting nervous that Hans Blix’s head would end up on TV next to a screaming horse head. (Maybe the U.N. was inspired by John Ashcroft’s throwing a blue cover over the “Spirit of Justice” statue last year, after her naked marble breast hovered over his head during a televised terrorism briefing.)

Nelson Rockefeller himself started the tradition of covering up art donated by Nelson Rockefeller when he sandblasted Diego Rivera’s mural in the RCA Building in 1933 because it included a portrait of Lenin. (Rivera later took his revenge, reproducing the mural for display in Mexico City, but adding to it a portrait of John D. Rockefeller Jr. drinking a martini with a group of “painted ladies.”)

The administration’s argument for war has shifted in a dizzying Cubist cascade over the last months. Last summer, Bush officials warned that Saddam was close to building nuclear bombs. Now, with intelligence on aluminum tubes, once deemed proof of an Iraqi nuclear program, in dispute, the administration’s emphasis has tacked back to germ and chemical weapons. With no proof that Saddam has given weapons to terrorists, another once-crucial part of the case for going to war, Mr. Rumsfeld and others now frame their casus belli prospectively: that we must get rid of Saddam because he will soon become the gulf’s leading weapons supplier to terrorists.

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