United Nuances

  • Artist: Marte Johnslien
  • Creation date: 2009–2011
  • Object type: Installation


Marte Johnslien’s installation refers to the United Nations Headquarters in New York. In 1957, the year of his re-election, UN Secretary- General Dag Hammarskjöld initiated the construction of the Meditation Room in that building. The room was to be available both to visitors and to employees, independent of their faith or creed. One of the walls was decorated with a fresco featuring abstract, geometric patterns done in a modernist style.

In United Nuances we recognize the geometric patterns from this fresco, now in the guise of three-dimensional objects. An object that recalls Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture Single Form (1961–64) hangs from the ceiling. The original sculpture is located outside the UN Headquarters in commemoration of Hammarskjöld, who died in 1961 in a mysterious plane crash while on assignment for the UN.

Johnslien’s installation does not necessarily shore up the viewer’s sense of belief; instead, the slack, pillowy sculptures seem to be on the verge of collapsing, and there is little that brings to mind the intended pathos of the Meditation Room. When the United Nations was founded in 1945, there was a strong belief in the need to increase international dialogue. But already by the 1950s, doubts about the UN had begun to creep in, and both the Cold War and the process of decolonization made it harder to steer through the political landscape. United Nuances is as permeated with doubt as it is with belief, concerning not only religion and politics but also modernist art and architecture. Johnslien has challenged the language of modernism in several of her projects, and in United Nuances she invites the viewer to query modernism’s function in the recent history of institution- and nation-building.

Text: Marthe Tveitan

From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0


Marte Johnslien


Born 1977

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Forente Nyanser (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
netting, filt, teppe og akrylgips
Kjøpt 2011
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Complex object/artwork
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Børre Høstland
© Johnslien, Marte/BONO