The European Parliament’s contemporary art collection was born in 1980; the brainchild of Simone Veil, the first President of the directly elected European Parliament. Conscious of the cultural and communicative power that art wields, she wanted the collection to reflect the very best of contemporary young artistic production; a snapshot of the here and now of European visual heritage.
Ever since Veil’s igniting spark made it a reality, the collection has grown through a series of acquisitions that have mirrored developments in the EU over a period straddling two centuries. Successive expansions, major political events, moments of uncertainty, thematic conferences and inaugurations are all represented and documented. As viewers navigate from one artwork to another, they catch glimpses of the Union’s history as understood and interpreted by its creative communities and its citizens. The collection symbolises almost half a century’s worth of achievements, collaborations, aspirations and unity ¬– from the integration of the current Member States to core values like freedom of expression, human dignity and environmental urgency; to seminal figures that have shaped the Union’s trajectory and punctuated its evolution.
Forty years since its creation, the collection, which now boasts more than 500 works of art, is among the most culturally diverse of its kind, featuring contributions from every single Member State. Its curators continuously strive to embody the European motto of ‘Unity in Diversity’. Pieces from the collection are on display in the European Parliament’s three places of work, including in the offices of the President and Bureau members, the Protocol Salons, and public spaces. Some are also exhibited at the European Parliament Liaison Offices. Together, they serve as a daily reminder of the journey so far and what is yet to be built and created.
Today, the European Parliament, faithful to Veil’s intentions, continues to add to and nurture its contemporary art collection in accordance with its founding principles. By scouting both young and established talent from across the EU, it seeks to reach out and collaborate with successive generations of artists who seize the creative and contextual moment to express themselves. Piece by piece, decade by decade, the collection commemorates history as it is being experienced and shared by the most prominent names of the EU art scene.