The European Parliament’s art collection was the brainchild of its first president, Simone Veil, who decided in the early 1980s that the institution should follow the example of certain national parliaments and begin to constitute a contemporary art collection. The initial plan was to bring together artworks from each of the then 10 Member States of the European Economic Community, giving priority to young artists who had already achieved a certain level of recognition and prestige.
The overall aim was to amass a collection of major works, selected on the basis of proposals from art experts in each country. The collection would not only serve to promote artistic creation in the Member States and protect Europe’s artistic heritage – giving fresh impetus to the European Community’s cultural policy – but would also bring much-needed aesthetic criteria governing the choice of objects decorating the European Parliament’s public and work spaces in its various buildings.
The selection on this website includes just over a hundred works chosen for their artistic quality and the relevance of their creators, including some major names on the international art scene: Mimmo Paladino, Peter Doig, Michael Craig-Martin, Antoni Tàpies, Imi Knoebel, Valerio Adami and more.
The collection includes notable examples of the various trends that have defined the European art scene over the last four decades: abstract art from the 1980s and 1990s, with splendid pieces by Helena Almeida, Callum Innes, Felim Egan, Ângelo de Sousa and Günther Förg; German neo-expressionism, with Georg Baselitz, Rainer Fetting and Helmut Middendorf; 1980s neo-figurative painting, represented by Pat Andrea; the inimitable, haunting expressionism of Juan Barjola; pieces by major sculptors from very different generations and styles, such as Martín Chirino, Rui Chafes and Jens Galschiot; and the evocation of nature and the rural environment, especially recognisable in the paintings of several Irish artists represented in the collection, such as Martin Gale.
The collection also encompasses works showcasing formats and techniques more redolent of the decorative arts, for example, there is a piece by the master manipulator of glass and enamel, Herman Blondeel, as well as the abstract textiles by Ulla-Maija Vikman. The works directly paying tribute or alluding to the European Union include a complete series of the Member States’ national flags interpreted with great originality and brio by the Greek artist Pavlos Dionyssopoulos.
The most recent additions, from the countries that joined the EU between 2004 and 2013, demonstrate a uniformly high level of quality and have introduced techniques and themes that encapsulate the digital-technological renewal of the arts in the first two decades of the 21st century, seen, for instance, in works by Jasmina Cibic, Ivana Franke and Gyöngyi Gallusz, in Jaan Elken’s politically resonant pictorial art and in Anna Baumgart’s scenographic sculpture installations.
Parliament’s collection, currently consisting of some 350 works, was designed to be tool of communication reflecting its support for, and promotion of, the European Union’s cultural diversity. The collection will continue to grow in the coming years with the acquisition of new pieces reinforcing both the fair representation of women artists and the presence of contemporary artistic genres such as photography, graphic art, video art, performance and installations. We at the European Parliament’s Art Service invite you to enjoy this selection of works.