In today’s world, freedom of expression is facing growing pressure – and so is the freedom of artistic expression. The COVID-19 crisis has severely affected artists and the cultural and creative sector, having rendered, at the same time, ever more visible the importance of arts and culture that help keep people included, connected and inspired. The health crisis has also encouraged artists to explore new avenues of their creativity and seek new tools to reach out to their audience, including virtual ones. It is in this spirit that in the end of 2020, the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape came up with a concept for a digital exhibition "Free to Create, Create to be Free".
"Artists, artistic mobility and artistic freedom are strategic resources for society, able to help overcome fragmentation and addressing today's global challenges," said Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge presenting the progress of the digital exhibition project. The exhibition builds on the Council of Europe’s legacy of art exhibitions and provides a fresh view and an innovative means to communicate the Council of Europe values. It follows the launch by the Steering Committee of the "Manifesto on the Freedom of the Expression of Arts and Culture in the Digital Era".
Germany, Poland, Serbia and Azerbaijan have already provided their artworks in digital format to the exhibition available on a dedicated, artistic website. Several other Council of Europe states are currently preparing their contributions and selecting art works. The exhibition aims to include all Council of Europe member states. "Our ambition is to have all member States display their chosen pieces, reflecting the essential role of artistic freedom in a democratic society, and have the exhibition sustainably grow into a living archive that showcases the status of artistic freedom in Europe in the 21st century," Berge added.