The United Nations Wheel
The United Nations wheel depicts a table surrounded by diplomats. It reflects Topolski’s work with Conor Cruise O’Brien on his book The United Nations: Sacred Drama, published in 1968.
The UN diplomats Topolski has identified include U Thant, United Nations Secretary General for a decade from 1961 to 1971. In 1966 Topolski collaborated with the Irish politician and writer Conor Cruise O’Brien on a book about the UN. The paintings on the wheel come directly from sketches Topolski made at the United Nations headquarters in New York for this book.
The wire sculpture represents the Buddhist monks who set fire to themselves in protest at the Vietnam War and the persecution of Buddhists by the authoritarian government of South Vietnam. In 1965 two Americans carried out the same act in in the United States in protest at their country’s involvement in south-east Asia. Topolski himself travelled to Vietnam in 1951 when the country was under French rule and again in 1966, when the Americans were in control and the Vietnam War was escalating.