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9 July, 2009


UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, moved into its new headquarters in Geneva in November 2006. The new building houses the UNAIDS ART for AIDS collection, which was assembled through the support of artists, collectors and donors. The ArtAids foundation contributed a specially commissioned work by the Belgian artist Leo Copers, which is now on extended loan to UNAIDS.

Leo Copers’ untitled work consists of thirteen reproductions of Redouté prints of roses, coloured with infected human blood and presented in gilded frames. The prints are hidden from view by gilded covers that can be lifted and turned, using white gloves. This act reveals both the prints themselves and the black lining of their covers.

The roses, the blood, the gold and the Redouté prints – which hung in many chic Belgian interiors half a century ago – evoke several obvious sentimental associations such as love, honour and wealth. But Copers’ works are far from superficial. The prints are hidden, they remain a mystery until they are revealed by a dramatic act: the lifting of the covers that protect them. This action transforms the beautiful gilded surface of the covers into a black hole. It becomes apparent that the prints are not original Redouté prints, but are old reproductions with a history of their own. And the blood with which the prints have been coloured is not pure, but infected. The components of Leo Copers’ work are bound up with a deeper and more dramatic level than that of trivial associations.