Memo September 2013


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in September 2013

Richly illustrated this time. What is more, a postscript follows within a week.


It took eleven months to find a golden lion on a red shield to match the one on blue

These two cities were selected to become European capitals of culture in 2018. Both are homes of less spoken languages: Maltese and Frisian. For the title in 2019 fierce competition continues between cities in Bulgaria and Italy.


In the 2010s no capital of culture is going to coincide with the EU presidency. Earlier, with fewer member states, chances were greater. It happened twice to Germany (1988 Berlin, 1999 Weimar) and France (1989 Paris, 2000 Avignon). In spring 2002, Salamanca was the last capital of culture in a presidency country, remembered with a concert hall and an exhibition centre.

Visiting past winners or talking to people from such cities BO is less and less impressed by such investment legacies. Maintain a partly artificially sustained artistic excitement over twelve months in order to earn two or three new venues, to gain multiplied tourist nights, and to grease the “destination management” machinery – this is the habitual formula.

Instead of a contest of promises (especially of capital investment) proven cultural achievements of local communities should much rather be rewarded and showcased – there are lots of them in Europe. Also, instead of stretching the hype for a full year, concentrated peaks would be more gratifying both for the organisers and the visitors (think of the Olympics).


Behind almost all links in this newsletter there is a google-search. Have you heard lately anybody say about a fascinating find at a Europeana search? (Our spell-check did not recognise the word!) Try Valletta, Leeuwarden or Salamanca… Instead of a gallery, you find a catalogue. Indeed, a warehouse instead of a mall.

Seeing a spirited demo in 2008 (not available any longer), BO had high expectations. We followed its growth. In 2009 almost half of the 4.6 million documents were from France. In 2010 France was still the most diligent provider with 18% of the 14 million items. By now, however, Germany has taken the lead, with 16.3% of the 29 million object stock of Europeana:

At the first count the eastern countries had a combined share of 2% of the inventory. Now two of them figure among the single contributors of over 2%.

Europeana published the top ten countries by visitor numbers in the last quarter of 2012, totalling a bit over one million visits. This list, too, is led by Germany.

The real leader, however, is the Netherlands: the 1163 visits per day indicate an average of 69 Europeana visits per million population per day. Belgium and Sweden follow with 51 and 48, but we do not know about smaller countries’ addiction to the common collection of digital heritage of Europe.


The obvious benchmark is Google Art. We found no visitor statistics. We learned, however, that in the social media the project will soon reach six million followers.

The Google Art scope is narrower: art objects only. Much fewer in number than Europeana: about 47 000 items. Out of the 265 collections 147 are from Europe. Eleven EU-members still abstain.



In connection to an encouragement from the European Cultural Foundation to explore chances of an eventual European adaptation of the American Arts Index, BO revisited the only indicators that claim to cover all of Europe and are included also in the US Arts Index: the world trade statistics of Unctad (a UN organ for trade and development).

The trends first looked rather discouraging in the relationship to two major regions of the world. Enlarging the scope to the entire globe puts Europe in a considerably better perspective. The EU is still in charge of a third of the world trade of creative goods.

Europe’s leading position is greatly due to its large share in the imports, differently from the US and China. See shares in the global trade of creative goods in 2010:



















In September, the World Economic Forum published the latest Global Competitiveness Report. Instead of lamenting for the absence of criteria connected to culture, your attention is called now to the country profiles, from p95 in the 569 page report. Each profile features a graph with the list of factors that annoy business people the most in the respective country. For illustration, here is the list of top nuisances in the 28 EU members:


Access to financing



Restrictive labour regulations



Inefficient government bureaucracy



Tax rates






Tax regulations



Inadequately educated workforce






The majority (businessmen in nine countries) complain about lack of funds – familiar to cultural operators, too. Indeed, what would be the order of grievances in culture? That will be the subject of the promised PS in a week’s time.