But I didn’t know what it was about – although I thought it was probably an anti-gun ownership protest, perhaps typical of a country noted for its neutrality.
It turns out that it was designed by Carl Fredrik Bengt Wilhelm Reuterswärd in response to the murder of John Lennon. Called The Knotted Gun or Non-violence it was seen as a political piece in the manner of Picasso’s Guernica.
Reuterswärd had met Lennon and Ono in Switzerland in 1969 and had discussed creating a piece that depicted the concept of peace. After Lennon’s death Ono asked him to continue.
He said “I was filled with bitterness and anger and immediately began to create a symbol for John Lennon and everyone else who had been a victim of such assassins”
The work originally sat in the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park, New York across from Lennon’s apartment.
In 1988 the government of Luxembourg donated the statue to the United Nations.
More than a dozen variations exist in different locations around the world including one with two knots in the barrel in the Swedish town of Landskrona, where the sculptor latterly lived.
I only know this because of a recent obituary in the Times which described his career during which he was influenced by pop art and worked with lasers and holograms. He was a student at the Royal Art Academy in Stockholm where he later became a professor.
When he lost the use of his right hand due to a stroke he learned to use his left hand and staged an exhibition called “On the other hand“.
After his death in May this year aged 81 the Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström tweeted “His sculpture outside the UNHQ reminds us that peace is the only way”