Memo June 2011


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in June 2011


Apologies to readers in non-EU countries for the heavy EU-loading this time.

Future budget

“The Commission proposes to allocate … €1.6 billion in the area of culture for the 2014-2020 period.” This is the key sentence for us in the first official document on the budget for the next seven years, presented by president Barroso at the end of June. Which implies that film and other areas of audio-visual culture are culture, and that the broader cultural field may receive 500 million euros more.

Whether it will, depends on the member states and on the European Parliament. First of all the total seven-year budget of the European Union must indeed reach a thousand billion euros, as proposed by Barroso. (In the actual period it is €864 bn.)

And if it does, and indeed €1.6 bn is spent on “culture”, what will be its structure? At present the €700 mn of the Media Programme and the €400 mn of the Culture Programme together make up €1.1 bn, to which an extra €500 mn has now been aired.

Extra creativity

How will this extra half a billion be divided between culture proper, the audio-visual field and creative industries like advertising, design, fashion, software development, press, TV and radio, or architecture? Yes, these fields will also be covered, this is what has been advocated, enhanced also in the European Parliament.

The inclusion of economic areas that are genetically linked to culture into a broader definition of culture has been the greatest – and indeed positive – innovation of the recent past. In the United Kingdom, where the concept was born, the amalgamation in public financing has greatly advanced. The coexistence with the creative industries has, however, not been fully digested across Europe. It needs creativity and wisdom to devise an effective and balanced Creative Europe: this name is suggested for the combined €1.6 bn strong new programme. (Programmes for education, training and youth will also be merged as Education Europe.)

This conference in Tallinn fits into the process.

Wrocław 2008?

This is how we were musing back in 2003. Then, a year before the eastern enlargement, picturing an ecoc (European Capital of Culture) in our region was a playful dream. The first official ecoc in a new member state was in fact Vilnius in 2009, disregarding 2000, when the nine “European cities of culture” included Cracow and Prague, and the partisan action that made Sibiu a (successful) ecoc in 2007.

And now news came about the selection of Wrocław 2016, in tandem with Donostia / San Sebastián.

Sarajevo 2014?

The initiative in the European Parliament to grant the ecoc title to Sarajevo in 2014 could symbolise European reconciliation a hundred years after the incident in that city that triggered the First World War. That Vienna and Belgrade have expressed support to the move was also symbolic.

If – as rumours go – the proposal fails, it would be nice to revive at least the European Cultural Month on this occasion. Between 1992 and 2003 eleven cities were host to the title for a month (one of them, St Petersburg twice, in 1996 and 2003), but never in the western Balkans.

Compendium 2011

The 10th annual assembly of Compendium experts was held at the Vooruit centre in Ghent (Gent / Gand, Belgium), which is a magnificent monument to early 20th century socialist community culture.

Besides discussing actual issues in the life of Compendium, the authors of this key instrument of the Council of Europe’s CultureWatchEurope participated in the Amateo workshop on amateur arts (active cultural participation, to use a trendier term) in Europe. The workshop was introduced by a state-of-the-(amateur)-art paper on this little researched subject. It was welcomed and appreciated, except that speakers from Eastern Europe felt the need to complement its chapter on facilities with cultural houses. The relevant collection from Compendium country profiles, however, includes that dimension, too.

Come together

The Hungarian EU presidency brought together for the first time senior officials responsible for culture in the ministries of foreign affairs, and those in charge of international relations in the culture ministries. BO attended the event and spoke of the necessity to involve non-governmental actors into Euroepan external relations, and called for closer co-operation in cultural diplomacy. Such thoughts are close to some, and alien to others.

ECF, the European Cultural Foundation also chose Hungary for its advisory council meeting in June discussing past and future neighbourhood actions.  

One fairer than the other

Twenty years ago there was excitement about artists coming from the east. The coming is slow. June saw the 2011 edition of the world’s largest art fair in Basel. Among the 300 exhibitors five galleries (four Polish and one Hungarian) represented our region. From the broader area there were two from Istanbul and one from Moscow.

Art Basel is followed by Art Cologne and Paris (FIACfoire internationale d’art contemporain) with about 200-200 galleries, offering even less space to exhibitors from east Europe. There were a Czech, a Hungarian and a Pole at the latest edition in Cologne, and one from Ljubljana and Cluj at FIAC (plus one from Istanbul).

Internationa art fairs are relatively young. The oldest: Art Cologne was founded 72 years later than the Venice Biennial art exhibition. Preview Berlin is one of the youngest. Its seventh edition next September will feature one gallery from Bratislava, Budapest, Riga, Warsaw and Zagreb each, and two from Ljubljana.