Culture, Heritage and Diversity

Art exhibitions of the Council of Europe

The Council of Europe series of art exhibitions began in 1954 with the aim to increase knowledge and appreciation of European art as one of the highest expressions of Europe's culture and common values. Over almost half a century the series has succeeded in illustrating most of the great epochs or the contributions of great personalities who left an indelible mark on their time. The Council of Europe has recently reviewed its Exhibitions concept and is also launching a Cultural Events series.


A new thematic approach: culture as a vector of values and citizenship

For 50 years, Council of Europe Art Exhibitions have been illustrating the major historical movements, figures and events that have marked the history of European art: their main message being Europe and its unity.


Today, the Council of Europe priorities have shifted towards safeguarding European values. Democracy, human rights, respect for difference and diversity may need to be embedded in public institutions and policies but their ultimate strength depends on how firmly they are rooted in peopleís minds.


Council of Europe Exhibitions and Cultural Events should contribute to the organisationís wider social and political aims while at the same time retaining the excellence, scholarship, integrity and power of the previous exhibitions. Exhibitions and Cultural Events could be conceived around themes such as climate change; intercultural dialogue and the image of the other; human rights vs. the death penalty, migration, the rejection of violence, non-discrimination, the common history of Europe and its neighbours, the influence of Islam on European thought (and vice-versa).


A pro-active approach

In the past, the Council of Europe has been receiving and assessing, together with a high-level group of consultants, exhibition projects conceived by a relatively small number of major European cultural institutions, and offering a label and a modest financial support to the best projects.


While making sure that the exhibition themes complied with its quality standards, the Council of Europe did not actively seek or provoke specific exhibition projects on particular themes, or suggest priorities in order to extend the geographical scope of the projects and facilitate new partnerships.


The new approach suggests the active involvement of the Council of Europe in selecting, advising and promoting Exhibitions and Cultural Events, which represent wider thematic, geographical and curatorial interests.


Past exhibitions

List of past exhibitions
Art Exhibitions Fact File


Kathrin Merkle
+33 388 41 28 84


Reaching out to a wider public

Generally, Art Exhibitions have been shown in one place over a period of time. Although many Council of Europe Art Exhibitions have attracted millions of visitors, including young people on school visits, they have often remained confined to one particular locality at any given time. The 28th Council of Europe Exhibition "Universal Leonardo" moved away from this model: it consisted of several thematic exhibitions held in Florence, Oxford, London and Munich, attended by over 1 million visitors, and included an ambitious research project on Leonardoís painting techniques, a rich web site and the publication of an accompanying book. The outreach of the exhibitionís message - Europe has a common history of humanism, creativity and scientific development which has evolved through the movement of people and ideas across frontiers Ė was thus amplified significantly.


Future Council of Europe Exhibitions and Cultural Events should, whenever possible, tour several countries and make optimal use of mobile, interactive and digital technology in order to guarantee a massive outreach to publics in all countries and of all ages.