ART for The World is a non-governmental organization founded to build a bridge between art and society, with contemporary art serving humanitarian purposes.
Inspired by Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to take part freely in the cultural life of the community, [and] to enjoy the arts,” ART for The World aims to engage art as an important tool for fostering dialogue among diverse peoples, cultures, and worldviews to encourage tolerance and solidarity in the defense of human rights, underlying the importance of the relationship between the artist and the most compelling issues of our time.
Founded in 1995 in Geneva as a direct outgrowth of the Dialogues of Peace exhibition in the context of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, its activities involve the participation of artists and filmmakers from around the globe.
The presentation of ART for The World, by Ms. Adeline von Fürstenberg, the founder. The interview was held on 22 June 2021 and you can watch the full film here or read the written version below:
Ms. Adeline von Fürstenberg started her talk with this video ‘I drink your Bath Water’ by Pipilotti Rist. This anthropomorphic vision of nature and our planet was produced by AFTW in 2008.
During my teenage years, while I was trying to understand the complexities of my cultural roots. I have been very lucky because I found great support in the arts. I am Armenian born in Istanbul; as a child, I moved with my parents first to Italy and then to Switzerland. I still live and work mainly between these two counties. As a teenager, on Sundays, I used to lock myself in my room, trying to find out who I was, where I came from, in studying the art of the land of my ancestors, devouring books on art history on the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks and Byzantines. These readings and the beauty of these civilizations have somehow helped me to forge gradually the mosaic of my identity.
Later I began to understand art in its broadest sense while learning more about the European masterpieces. Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Goya, the Flemish painters, but also later the Aztecs, the Mayas and the Incas. Faithful to this identity born through the images of art, very young I choose the field of art as a landmark of my life. Since then, art has been an island in which I took refuge and around which my life has evolved until to reach its maturity. I certainly haven’t become wiser, but thanks to this tangible and concrete coexistence with art I have awakened myself to the world.
Born Cüberyan, from an Armenian family of generations of know architects during the Ottoman Empire, I married very young to a photographer who became my lifetime companion, Franz Egon von Fürstenberg, with a father belonging to one of the most illustrious European families and a Mexican mother of a journalist and writer during the Mexican Revolution. Together we shared the contradiction in our families and lives between the imagination and reality, that has allowed me still today to share my dreams in founding institutions, curating large exhibitions and producing films for an audience of all sorts and provenance.
In 1996 I founded the NGO ART for The World inspired by Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stipulates that “everyone has the right to take part freely in the cultural life of the community and of enjoying the arts ”. ART for The World activities and missions are not linked to a permanent space or a specific country, but to the sense of the initiatives that promote: a common thread that unites aesthetics to ethics.
The American architect Philip Johnson has formulated our organization such as I quote: “It is a museum without walls: first you find the right place for what you want to exhibit, and then you can select and change the container each time. From my point of view is great. I believe I would like to do the same thing.”
During my studies at the University of Geneva, I was influenced by the Swiss-born philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. His reforms revolutionized taste, first in music, then in the other arts. He furthered the expression of emotion rather than polite restraint in friendship and love. Reading him opened my eyes to the beauties of nature, and he made freedom an object of almost universal aspiration.
I started to be interested in contemporary art after a visit to the Documenta 5 Kassel in 1972 by the great curator Harold Seemann followed by a period of internship at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam where I was lucky enough to follow the setting of the first shows of Claes Oldenburg, Gilbert and George and more. In those years I found the Center of Contemporary Art on the campus of the University of Geneva that I directed until it became fully part of the local institutions and well support by the city authorities. One of my major artistic achievements was the exhibition Promenades in 1985, based on Rousseau’s writings on nature with the participation of the major artists of Arte Povera and conceptual art.
video clip Promenades
In 1995 the United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali invited me when I was directing the National Contemporary Art Center-Magasin in Grenoble, France to curate Dialogues of Peace. a very large contemporary art exhibition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. Sixty artists from around the world including Rauschenberg, Kabakov, Alfredo Jaar, Chen Zhen, Daniel Buren, created works dedicated to promoting tolerance, solidarity, and peace among global citizens. The pieces were presented in the majestic public spaces of the United Nations building in Geneva including its grandiose courtyard, as well as in its park, touching thousands of officials, dignitaries, and diplomats daily.
video clip Dialogues of Peace
During Dialogues of Peace, together with some of my close collaborators, among artists and friends, we came to realize the potential for the arts to bring awareness and influence social, economic, and cultural development at the dawn of a new century. This was the impetus for the creation of the non-governmental organization ART for The World in the transitional years between millennia.
One of the first projects of the newborn Art for The World was the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the World Health Organization, where ART for The World has been invited to present in 1998 -1999 an international itinerant exhibition of contemporary art, called The Edge of Awareness to be shown in Geneva, New York, São Paulo and New Delhi. This show opens a long time collaboration with institutions such as the UN and its Agencies and with the Regional Direction of SESC Sao Paulo, continuing to work with artists from all over the world on the main issues of our time, such as gender, children, minorities, nature, environment. The global collaboration has allowed us to curate and organize further large thematic art projects and produce films all around the world, from our offices in Geneva and Milan.
video clip Donna Donne
“Donna Donna/Women Women” was a cycle of a traveling show, to mark the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Beijing Conference. The exhibition, dedicated to the theme of the various feminine aspects, has been hosted at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence then traveled to SESC Sao Paulo. For each venue different artists have presented different works, reflecting the concept of femininity through a range of approaches and in creating dialogues on the role played by women in the contemporary world. This show has been followed in Milan at Hangar Bicocca by a large project by Marina Abramovic Balkan Erotic Epics about the relation of Mother Earth, Nature, and Sexuality.
video clip Marina Abramovic ‘Balkan Erotic Epics’
Inspired by my first show Promendes on the encounter of culture and nature and after the 1° Edition of Contemporary Art on the Lake Maggiore which featured the installations by the artist Jannis Kounellis on the Isola Madre, one of the 3 marvelous Borromeo islands on Lake Maggiore located between Turin and Milan, the 2nd Edition of Contemporary Art that I curated as well as composed by 3 large installations by Robert Wilson, worldwide claimed American Artist and Theatre Director, William Kentridge, the marvelous south African artist and poet, and the young Italian artist Liliana Moro. Sculptures and installations have been displayed on the whole island, with its botanic park, particularly renowned for its rare and exotic plants and birds, The close relationship and the intimate dialogue with nature and also the history of the island is the thread, which has directed the artists in the realization of their works.
Video clip William Kentridge, Liliana Moro, and Robert Wilson
With the patronage of the High Commissioner for the Refugee, I curated the project Playgrounds and Toys with more than 40 artists, architects, and designers from all over the world designed playgrounds and educational toys for children suffering from social injustice and living in the most unacceptable conditions. The show was displayed at the UN Visitors Lobby in NY when 9.11 have trapped us. This show was never open to the American public.
video clip Playgrounds and Toys
Nevertheless is was then presented in the following years in many art spaces in London, Paris, Rome, and in Milan at the Hangar Bicocca. At each stage of this exhibition’s itinerary, a local jury composed of children and adults selected one of the playgrounds that later was fabricated in schools and institutions in India, Armenia, UK, Greece, China, and Tasmania and many ‘Toys’ has been sent by the HCR in their Refugee camps in Africa.
video clip Joseph Kosuth ‘The Language of Equilibrium’
The Island of San Lazzaro is the location of the Mekhitrist Monastery on the Venetian Lagoon for a project by Joseph Kosuth, entitled, The Language of Equilibrium’ a collateral event of the 52nd Biennale di Venezia. Joseph Kosuth has intervened on different parts of the island, along the external perimeter wall to the observatory, from the promontory to the bell tower. The Language … was organized in collaboration with Hangar Bicocca. This monumental work comprised in yellow neon of words from the Armenian, Italian and English languages. The language here is used as a signifier of the history of the Mekhitarian Order.
video clip Urban Manners
At the Hangar Bicocca, I curated as well a show with some of the most prominent Indian artists with works of art illustrating the Indian contradictions such as the city against the countryside, the modernity against tradition, and so on.
video clip Food
During the preparation of Expo 2015 in Milan, our Milano office has prepared the FOOD project, a large contemporary art show on Mother Earth, Agriculture and Nutrition. Under the patronage of Expo 2015, the show started in Geneva with artworks exploring the question of food simultaneously dealing with survival, health, economy, and culture. Then the show traveled in SESC Sao Paulo and in Marseille at MuCem.
video clip Here Africa, Geneva
Following the pattern of the Indian exhibition in Milan, my Geneva team has created the traveling show HERE AFRICA that has assembled a unique collection of contemporary African art and performances including more than 26 artists from various generations from the African continent, for the first time in Switzerland. It traveled then to Sao Paulo. Later in 2017, I curated a similar African show at the PAC in Milan with a new title.
A consistent body of works has been selected from the incredible African Art collection of Mar. Johnny Pigozzi later exhibited at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. The artworks have touched key questions regarding African people such as the roots, the dark period of slavery, the issues of immigration, climate change, water and food, health, as well as human rights, education, and gender equality.
As you have noticed, during the years ART for The World aimed to engage art as an important tool for fostering dialogue among diverse peoples and cultures.
In 2015, I was invited to curate the Armenian National, Pavilion at the 56. Biennale of Venice displayed all over the San Lazzaro Island, in the Venetian Lagoon. The exhibition questions the concept of Armenian identity as being the result of its historical connections through the millennia on Anatolia, the Caucasus and through the diaspora since its inception after the 1915 Armenian Genocide. The richness of the exhibition finds expression in the diversity of creative ideas and narration and the vision of each of the young artists involved.
video clip Venice Biennale, 2015 (Golden Lion)
Continuing its mission to raise awareness on essential issues of our times through contemporary art, after the Food show, our project Aqua, was an international traveling exhibition focusing on water and its importance to human beings, fauna and flora, Most being presented for the first time, the artworks by 32 contemporary artists from differing horizons touched on the preservation of water. The exhibition is conceived to raise public awareness of the notion of interdependence, essential to the conservation of our environment and to the future of our planet. Recognised as a vital life-giving element, water is essential to preserving biodiversity and ecosystems. As a human resource, it is at the centre of climate change and its consequences, a possible origin, or a subject of conflict.
video clip Aqua
In parallel to the art exhibitions, we produce as well short films on Environment and Climate Change. Interdependence is a long feature film of 1h26’ composed of eleven short movies. Produced in 2019, the film explores in a sensible and creative way the position of humankind and nature.
video clip Interdependence
It has been seen from the end of 2019 to up now by more the 300 million people all around the world thanks to its media partner Eurovision/European Broadcasting Union and its partners TAL in Latino America, ABU in Asia. We received as well the partnership of Vox Africa and participate in great nrs. of festivals online during the pandemic. Recently Interdependence was the winner for the Best Narrative Feature at the London Eco Film Festival. We know that human activities have a direct impact on the resources of our planet, as well as on animals with which we share the Earth.
Our next film production is actually on the issues of Animals. Hopefully will be able to release at the end of 2022.
To conclude this presentation here few photos of our actual exhibition Nobody is Excluded. A series of amazing images by the young photographer Christian Tasso who has traveled all around the world to give new light on persons with disabilities and their stories, to raise questions concerning the filters created by misconceptions that have distorted our vision on the 15% of our human suffering of every sort of disability.