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The promotion of art history in Europe
Recommendation 1621 (2003)

Doc. 10256
30 July 2004

Reply from the Committee of Ministers
adopted at the 892nd meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (8 July 2004)


1.         The Committee of Ministers has considered with interest Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1621 (2003) on the promotion of art history in Europe and has communicated it to the governments of its member states, as well as to a number of its Steering Committees.  Two of them, the Steering Committee for Culture and the Steering Committee for Cultural Heritage, have provided comments on the recommendations which the Assembly directs to member states, and not to the Committee of Ministers.  The Committee of Ministers considers them valuable and would like to share them with the Assembly.  These comments are appended to this reply.

2.         The texts of both Committees also provide information on the past and current projects in the field of the promotion of art history in the framework of intergovernmental co-operation, including Council of Europe Art Exhibitions, the European Heritage Classes and Heritage Days, which the Parliamentary Assembly mentions.

3.         It should be noted that the forthcoming Council of Europe Art Exhibition to be organised in 2005/2006 on Leonardo da Vinci, will be an ambitious and innovative one in that it will comprise a series of exhibitions in various locations possessing works of art by Leonardo.  At the same time, a working partnership with high tech industry will enable the different sites to be on-line with educational material linked to Leonardo, and a website will be created.

4.         The Committee of Ministers points out that several sectors of its activity programme cover heritage awareness and approaching and enhancing art history as vehicles for mutual understanding, citizenship, tolerance and intercultural dialogue.

5.         Additionally, the Steering Committee for Culture (CDCULT) studies, within its Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention project, the role of stereotypes, which in the past were often reinforced, among other things, through unbalanced interpretation of artistic expressions.  The project's action plan foresees awareness-raising activities among art historians and training directors of cultural institutions, so that cultural projects are presented in a comprehensive way to ensure respect and even-handed treatment for all cultural expressions.

6.         It observes that the preparation of a new framework convention on heritage should make it possible to lay greater emphasis on the importance of developing an awareness of the values of the cultural heritage.  New initiatives in these fields could be launched in future Council of Europe activity programmes, drawing on the assessments currently under way.

7.         The Committee of Ministers stresses the need to reassert the fact that heritage conservation should be paramount and that the use of heritage for commercial and tourism purposes must be subordinate to protection and conservation requirements, as these are non-renewable assets which can rapidly deteriorate.

8.         It recommends, on the other hand, great caution in the field of relations with the art trade.  The possible introduction of regulatory frameworks presupposes in-depth deliberation and wide consultation of the relevant circles.  Universities keep their distance from the art market since the results of scientific research may significantly alter the market value of works.  They cannot be both judge and jury by providing scientific work and at the same time being bound to dealers in such a way that the focus of their work could appear to be tied in with financial interests.

9.         As for the Cultural Routes Programme, this is being re-launched taking into account its pedagogical and awareness-raising aspects. Sites and monuments are more and more visited and presented as tangible expressions of human creativity, past, present and in the making. Coupled with thematic art exhibitions, they are able not only to persuade Europeans that arts constitute the inner core of their identities but also to stimulate them to give adequate new forms to modern thinking and feeling.

10.       As for the European Museum Awards, it has not been part of the Council of Europe’s Intergovernmental Programme of Activities.

11.       The Committee of Ministers reiterates its desire to develop closer co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly in the field of cultural heritage, in particular in the standard-setting field and, especially, in the initial preparatory stages of reference texts.

Appendix I to the reply

Opinion of the Steering Committee for Culture on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1621 (2003) on the promotion of art history in Europe

The Steering Committee for Culture (CDCULT), which took note of this text at its 2nd plenary session meeting in October 2003, warmly welcomed Recommendation 1621 (2003). The text underlines the important role art and its history can play in a number of fields.

Consequently, the CDCULT is happy to make a number of comments, sometimes enlarging the scope of the paragraphs of the Recommendation, and to provide information on its ongoing projects, which at least partially correspond to the proposals made in the Recommendation.

Museums

The CDCULT intends to study the possibilities of promoting not only the traditional ambitious Council of Europe Art Exhibitions, but also to develop smaller ones supporting co-operation between museums and galleries of a given region.

Through its MOSAIC and STAGE projects the CDCULT has promoted the development of educational programmes on museums and stressed the importance of including in the exhibitions all cultural expressions. Within the MOSAIC project a specific publication was prepared on Arts organisations and their education programmes: responding to a need for change. Within the STAGE project a training visit for museum managers from the three South Caucasus countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) was organised and hosted by Greece in November 2003 in Athens. It allowed for meetings with Greek museum professionals, offering therefore an opportunity to establish contacts, exchange experience and good practices and to facilitate twinning between respective institutions.

Tourism

Within the European Cultural Routes programme particular attention has always been given to the participation of art historians in the development of routes. Most, if not all, of the Council of Europe cultural routes illustrate art historical themes: Santiago de Compostella Pilgrim Routes, Baroque Route, Viking Routes etc.

Schools

In 1996 the CDCULT launched a two-year project on arts education in Europe, including a study on the situation in the member states (curriculum, number of hours etc.), and published in 1999 a Policy Note Culture, creativity and the young: developing public policy recommending the strengthening of the curriculum in this field, so that schools become places of enjoyment and creativity where the young can express themselves, strengthen their own identity as European citizens and learn about European diversity. In order to enhance the role of the arts in schools it is thus necessary to provide teachers with continuous training in the arts, in co-operation with artists and cultural institutions.

Media

From 1999 to 2001 the CDCULT conducted a project on the New Information Technologies, which recommended their use for cultural purposes, eg. publications of texts through the technique of print-on-demand, the importance of cultural CD-Rom (and now DVD-Rom) for young people, the general use of the Internet to promote European cultural diversity. The principle of access free of charge to new technologies in cultural institutions was underlined by the project.

Further comments

It should equally be noted that the forthcoming Council of Europe Art Exhibition to be organised in 2005/2006 on the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci, will be an ambitious and innovating one in that it will comprise a series of exhibitions in various locations possessing works of art by Leonardo. At the same time a working partnership with high tech industry will enable the different sites to be on-line with educational material around Leonardo, a website will be constructed for this occasion.

Additionally, the CDCULT studies, within its Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention project, the role of stereotypes, which in the past were often reinforced, amongst others, through unbalanced interpretation of artistic expressions. The project's action plan foresees awareness raising activities among art historians and training directors of cultural institutions, so that cultural projects are presented in a comprehensive way to ensure respect and even-handed treatment for all cultural expressions. Due to the lack of financial and staff resources these activities could not be sufficiently developed. Should the CDCULT follow up the action plan, this activity could be implemented.

Appendix II to the reply

Opinion of the Steering Committee for Cultural Heritage on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1621 (2003) on the promotion of art history in Europe

The CDPAT:

Observations on the text of the Recommendation:

above and beyond the issue of diversity of European culture, it would appear worthwhile also emphasising the unitary currents that have been a characteristic feature of Europe and exchanges with non-European cultures.

The alternative uses of cultural assets can in some cases endanger the integrated conservation of the built heritage. However alternative use of these heritage assets for purposes other than those originally intended is not always negative and open to criticism, but can be useful for the maintenance and ultimately the conservation of such assets.

the promotion of art history in Europe could be presented also as an important tool that has the potential of  fostering understanding and tolerance between cultures.

*           “In Academic Institutions”

*           “In museums”

*           “In tourism”

*           "In Art Trade"

It could be suggested to take measures to:

*           “In schools”

*           "In the media"

It should be stated concerning this issue that the primary focus should be on direct contact with the work of art.

In more general terms, the CDPAT: