In 1957, the UNESCO “Committee on Architecture and Works of Art”, in collaboration with the Committee of art advisors, chose eleven artists to undertake the task of decorating the permanent headquarters in Paris, inaugurated in 1958. Within this context, UNESCO commissioned Jean Arp for a sculptural work. Included therefore in the initial artistic decoration of the buildings, Arp’s "UNESCO Constellation" was placed on the exterior wall of the library until the 1970s, at which point it was moved inside and exhibited in the Executive Board hall, where it still remains today.
For this monumental work, Arp created an 'open' composition made up of four copper elements of 140 x 85 cm, 250 x 220 cm, 300 x 350 cm and 145 x 190 cm, that hang freely and separately on the wall, "like hats that could be picked up", according to the artist. The wall upon which the sculpture is exhibited is therefore an integral, variable element of the composition, acting both as support and background to the artwork.
This sculpture was created around the same period as several other public commissions that Arp received during the 1950s. These included works for Harvard University's Graduate Center (USA, 1950) or the University of Caracas campus (Venezuela, 1956), among others.
The bronze and wood working model made by Arp for "UNESCO Constellation" is also part of UNESCO's Collection.
Jean (or Hans) Arp was born in 1886 in Strasbourg (France). After studying Art in Germany, he settled down in France in 1907, first in Paris, where he participated in the Dadaist movement, and later in Clamart.
Sculpture quickly became Arp's main and preferred technique - more specifically sculpture in the round with predominantly organic shapes. He also made collages, which he created using pieces of his own torn-up works on paper; he imagined these as a reflection of nature. His work in general was oriented towards a search for a greater 'pureness', as an equivalent, in a way, to the growth, or evolution, found in nature.
In 1954, Arp received the International Sculpture Prize in Venice. He passed away on June 7, 1966 in Basel (Switzerland). In 1979 his second wife, Marguerite Hagenbach, created the Arp Foundation, installed in Arp's house-atelier in Clamart.