Memo June 2017


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in June 2017

BO wishes you agreeable vacations!

Eesti 100

The Estonian state will have its 100th birthday next year. The jubilee website invites you to create your own version of the memorial logo – BO had a try.

The country was originally designated to do the presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2018; due to Brexit, however, Estonia agreed to take UK’s place and bring their term forward to July-December 2017. Here we are, and here are the presidency priorities in culture: surprise, surprise, culture in the digital age is in focus. “Digital technologies have changed the ways people access, use and produce cultural content. We will explore what these changes require from cultural institutions.”

With a further two priorities the presidency looks through the borders of the Union: it promises to proceed with the import regulation of cultural goods, as well as advocates for a strategic approach to international cultural relations.

Biennale Arte 2017

The mother (father?) of all biennials is running for the 57th time until 26 November in Venice. From the 120 works, selected by a French curator, a German artist received the Golden Lion – suiting this summer’s mood in Europe. What’s more, the German pavilion (presenting the work of Anne Imhof) was selected best among the 84 national exhibits.

Earlier there were separate Golden Lions for painters and sculptors but since art turned into multi-genre applied philosophy these categories were rendered obsolete. F.E. Walther, this year’s recipient of the prize is 78 years old; in the past fifteen years the youngest winner was 43 while the oldest 87.

Among 120 people selected for the curated main exhibition we find 15 living artists from the east of the continent. Less than half of them are working in the country of birth (one of them also as prime minister).


Visitor friendliness

What does a foreign visitor find in English on the website of the culture ministry? BO checked 26 portals on the eastern half of the continent and the table shows what we found. (2 means satisfaction, 1 is for limited success.)

Our favourites are the cultural ministry portals in Armenia, Czechia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova. We found links to cultural statistics at none of the websites, and only the Bulgarian ministry connects you to the national cultural funding agency.

We also remarked a few unique features on the portals:

  • The Belarusian site (BY) has a version in easy read format for the visually impaired.
  • The Croatian homepage (HR) highlights the successful art education programme called Backpack.
  • Integration and society is a prominent chapter on the Latvian culture ministry portal (LV).
  • The same website is particularly informative about EU funding in culture.
  • The three portraits of the ruling family on one of the sites are a fairly non-European feature.

Jamm session

On Wednesday afternoon and evening Culture Action Europe invites you to a live discussion about the role that culture can play in the future of Europe. Click here to join or just to peep in.

In June BO organised a preparatory “hub” meeting in Budapest where a bunch of smart and devoted Hungarians debated the issue. As usual, our thoughts dispersed but in the end the group managed to jam(m) the essence into this sentence: The future of Europe shall be based on sustainable development, and for this the road is through our European values embedded in our culture.

Forza Milan

The 2017 edition of the European Culture Forum will take place on 7-8 December in Milan, closer to BO’s geographic remit. If Brexit proceeds along its mournful trajectory as it is set now, this will be the last Forum with Britons as full right participants. Too bad.