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Rauschenberg plans population art


MARCH 21, 1993

Rauschenberg plans population art

New painting to echo themes of Cairo parley as part of effort to promote wide public awareness


New York—Robert Rauschenberg, who has long enjoyed household-name status as an artist, says he’s seeking to ensure that the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development wins universal awareness — and public support –well before the decennial meeting convenes in Cairo in September 1994. 

For Rauschenberg, that means the creation of a new work of art to mark the Conference.  He expects the painting to be ready in time for the Conference’s next  PrepCom, scheduled to be held at the UN from May 10 to 21.  Officials of the United Nationals Population Fund (UNFPA) say with delight that the Rauschenberg painting would be unveiled during the PrepCom.

“Population growth especially in developing countries, affects the way in which economic development progresses, or doesn’t progress.”  Rauschenberg said.  “Population affects the environment.  It has a strong impact on our collective well-being.  That is why I consider the UN conference to be such a significant event.  I expect the Cairo Conference to alert nations and their people to the fact that unless we address our population problem, there can be no peace and security for the world.”

Rauschenberg’s decision  to create a new painting was conveyed to the UNFPA during a meeting last week at his studio in downtown Manhattan.  Present at that meeting were Jyoti Shankar Singh, executive coordinator of the Cairo Conference, and Theodore W. Kheel, president of the Earth Pledge Foundation (and founder of The Earth Times).  Kheel had earlier chaired the Earth Summit Committee to Promote the Pledge, at the invitation of Maurice F. Strong, who was Secretary General of 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).  Kheel’s Committee was widely credited with creating public awareness of the UN confidence — also known as the Earth Summit — which was held in Rio de Janeiro last June.  More than 100 heads-of-state-and-government attended the Summit, and some 180 governments were represented in all.

UNFPA’s Singh, referring to Kheel’s efforts in behalf of the Earth Summit, said: “The success of your efforts at the Earth Summit  has convinced me that we would be able to promote public awareness for the Population Conference through a similar effort.”

Kheel told Singh that the Earth Pledge Foundation would create a series of prints and posters from Rauschenberg’s new painting for the Cairo Conference.  The painting is as yet untitled, but it is expected to echo the proposed theme for 1994 Conference,  “Choices and Responsibilities.”

Kheel noted that Rauschenberg had created the official Earth Summit painting, “Last Turn, Your Turn,” from which the Earth Pledge Foundation produced signed, limited-edition prints and posters.  Sales from the prints and posters supported the public-awareness problem for the Earth Summit.  Each print and poster carried the following line from the “Earth Pledge,” which was drafted by UNCED Secretary General Strong: “I pledge to make the Earth a secure and hospitable home for present and future generations.“

The painting was prominently displayed on the dais of the Earth Summit in Rio.  The Earth Times (which was then called The Earth Summit Times) served as the official newspaper of record at Rio, and will be a newspaper of record at the Cairo Conference.

Kheel also noted that the Earth Summit Committee to Promote the Pledge was instrumental in reaching people worldwide with the message of the Rio Conference.  The response was overwhelming: Earth Pledges from America, India, the Middle East and the Far East were received from schools, corporations and individuals who wanted to demonstrate their support for the Earth Summit. 

In a letter to Rauschenberg, Nafis Sadik, UNFPA’s head, said that the artist’s involvement with the Cairo Conference would be key to spreading word of its significance.  “Your eminence in the field of art and your support will be of tremendous help in increasing awareness of the Conference and in reminding the world that no lasting solution to the problems of the environment and poverty can be found without addressing pollution problems,” Sadik said.