The « Works of Art and Special Projects Unit » was created in 2004 to ensure the proper management and conservation, as well as the dissemination of knowledge, of the UNESCO works of art collection. The beginnings of this artistic heritage coincide with the construction of the Organization's Headquarters in Paris, inaugurated in 1958, and for which the « Committee for Architecture and Works of Art » was established in 1956 partly in order to select amongst the contemporary artists of the time those who would be commissioned for works to embellish the building.
From its creation, this Committee has counted among its members many prominent personalities, such as the architects that originally designed the buildings, Bernard Zehrfuss, Marcel Breuer, Luigi Nervi, Le Corbusier and later on Renzo Piano.
Since its establishment in Paris, UNESCO has set up a considerable and diverse collection of works of art, such as those by Picasso, Miró, Arp, Appel, Afro, Matta, Calder, Chillida, Giacometti, Moore, Tamayo, Soto, Vasarely, Cruz-Diez and many others, counting today more than 500 works. Over the years, this collection has grown continually thanks to the generosity of the Member States who wished to enhance and embellish the Organizations' Headquarters whilst respecting the capacities and constraints of its architectural framework.
UNESCO's Headquarters currently owns the largest artistic heritage within the United Nations.
The « Works of Art and Special Projects Unit » handles the acquisition of new works of art in collaboration with the « Advisory Committee on Works of Art» (ACWA). The purpose of this Committee, composed of six high-level experts working within the art domain, is the evaluation - following specific criteria - of all donation proposals received from various countries, hence insuring the artistic and cultural quality of the entirety of the collection.
The works exhibited throughout the UNESCO buildings show the richness emanating from the artistic and material diversity coming from around the world and spanning over 6000 years of history. This website is the most recent step undertaken by the Organization for a greater visibility and accessibility of the collection, and so allowing its diffusion on an international scale.