Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE INTERVIEW

Nicaraguans 'betrayed' by Ortega, Bianca Jagger tells FRANCE 24

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Protesters, punches and the President's bodyguard

Read more

THE DEBATE

Heavy Meddle: Is Russia outmanoeuvring the West?

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Trump's Helsinki summit with Putin causes outrage in US

Read more

ENCORE!

On the red carpet with Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd

Read more

FOCUS

Spain's strawberry farms from hell

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

UK book exports could be harmed by Brexit

Read more

IN THE PRESS

'Ortega, enough!'

Read more

PEOPLE & PROFIT

Greece's new chapter: Athens prepares to exit bailout programme

Read more

Americas

Of ‘brutes and sweethearts’ - the General Assembly, in charcoal

© Yann Toma, ADAGP | Hassan Rohani speaks at the UN General Assembly 2014.

Text by Sophie PILGRIM , in New York

Latest update : 2014-10-28

The UN General Assembly might seem like a sober affair, but one French artist sees it differently. Yann Toma has sketched all of the 120 world leaders at the event this year, a process that has revealed to him both passion and evil, he says.

French contemporary artist Yann Toma found himself at the UN General Assembly by the very unlikely way of the Chelsea Hotel, when he was introduced to the then French ambassador to the United Nations, Jean-Maurice Ripert.

In 2007, he began the illustrious task of portraying the entirety of United Nations, which he describes as a “parallel universe with permanent intrigue”. From heads of state and ambassadors to the cleaners and security members who remain at the building long after the diplomats and aid workers have gone home, Toma has been photographing and filming the workings and encounters of the world body for seven years.

"The UN is a parallel universe"
"I try to capture the energy that circulates at the UN". Yann Toma speaks about his portraiture work at the world body, which he has been documenting since 2007. Photo: Sophie Pilgrim / FRANCE 24.

This year, he decided to change medium, opting for coloured charcoal and an easel. “At first I was worried about getting in the way of the press,” he said. “But then people started taking an interest in what I was drawing, and how I captured each person, especially if it was their own head of state.”

Toma, a professor and researcher at the Sorbonne in Paris, won’t say who he’s enjoyed drawing the most -- his enthusiasm would suggest numerous candidates. Michelle Bachelet of Chile has “a flame; a passion” while US President Barack Obama is “poised, centred and has an animal magnetism that sways the audience”. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas “lacks fluidity when he speaks but finds solutions”. Others take a purely diplomatic position, and fail in their efforts as a result, Toma believes.

“There’s plenty of evil onstage at the assembly too,” he says, although he’s not mentioning any names. “The problem today is that b***ards talk like sweethearts. That’s diplomacy. Brutes, killers, the worst types talk of peace, love, sustainable development, environment and the liberation of Palestine. They’ve got great advisers. And great theatrics.”

Date created : 2014-09-30

  • IRAN

    Iran’s Rohani criticises West’s blunders in Middle East

    Read more

  • UNITED NATIONS

    Gaza conflict was 'war of genocide', Abbas tells UN

    Read more

  • UNITED NATIONS

    Hamas and IS branches of same ‘poisonous tree,’ Netanyahu tells UN

    Read more

COMMENT(S)