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Giant eco-friendly artwork inspires UNGA76

In two weeks, there will be nothing left due to the regrowth of the grass. This makes the work disappear, even more than the rain.



aerial view over the UN headquarters in New York shows the giant 11,000-square-meter biodegradable ephemeral fresco, ‘Work in Progress II.’ / Photograph courtesy of UN

A new 11,000-square-meter “ephemeral fresco” created by Swiss artist Saype set the stage at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York to welcome world leaders for the General Assembly High Level Week. It shows two children building the world of the future using origami, highlighting the participation of young people.

“‘World in Progress II’ is perfectly suited to our time and place. First, it is, in all senses, a big picture. Both its execution and its subject are monumental and ambitious. We have to take several steps back just to view it in its entirety. Then we understand that it shows two children, designing their ideal world together,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the unveiling ceremony.

Guterres explained that, just like the artwork, the UN mission extends far beyond what we can see around us. “Most of it lies out of our view. Our work is multilateral, and multi-generational. And each of us plays an essential part in creating the whole,” he added.

Guillaume Legros, or “Saype,” the artist’s name inspired by the contraction of the words “say” and “peace,” is famous for his invention of an eco-friendly painting process. His special technique allows him to create huge frescoes directly on the grass.

“In two weeks, there will be nothing left due to the regrowth of the grass. This makes the work disappear, even more than the rain,” he explained to UN News.

Legros spent more than a year finding the right pigments for his ephemeral art.

He had already shared one of his creations at the UN premises before. Last year, “World in Progress I” was unveiled during the commemoration of the 75th UN anniversary in Geneva, Switzerland.

“In the center, there is a dove that symbolizes peace. The basic idea is that, on the one hand when talking about children, we ask ourselves what responsibility we have toward them. But, on the other hand, they are the ones who will have the world of tomorrow in their hands. This means that we must really learn to live together in a world that is also hyper-connected,” he said.

For the UN chief, the children depicted in “World in Progress II” are designing our shared future.

“This year’s general debate will take up this theme, focusing on the world we are building together. My recent report on Our Common Agenda recommends new ways for today’s decision-makers to better serve both young people and future generations.”