The Exhibition-Dialogue on Contemporary Art in Europe (Lisbon, 1985) as Part of the Council of Europe’s Cultural Diplomacy

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    • Presentation speakers
      • André Silveira, Instituto de História da Arte - FCSH Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal


    The Exhibition-Dialogue on Contemporary Art in Europe was inaugurated in Lisbon at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s Centro de Arte Moderna in 1985, months before Portugal became a member of the European Economic Union. Part of the series of exhibitions promoted by the Council of Europe (COE) from 1954 onwards, Exhibition-Dialogue was the first to deal with contemporary art. The series addressed several historical moments in order to build a common ground that could sustain the connection between local or national references and the establishment of a European historical and cultural identity. In this regard, the COEs choice of L’Europe Humaniste as the series’ first exhibition is significant. Among other reasons, it summons the ideal of a Republic of Letters that underpins a supposed European civilizational upper status and points out to a transnational model of individual collaborations, stating clearly the theoretical, philosophical and epistemological horizons of this European project. As the contemporary section of this series, the Exhibition-Dialogue had two main purposes: it aimed to provide an image of contemporary art in Europe by confronting works of the eight museums that co-organized it and it tried to analyze a dynamic, inconstant and multiform European cultural identity by acknowledging museums as both representatives of and active agents on the definition of cultural identities. This paper will focus on the Exhibition-Dialogue as part of the COE’s cultural diplomacy by positioning it on the series of exhibitions organized until the middle 1990′s. Furthermore, it will also discuss the possible relations between the Exhibition-Dialogues’ conceptual apparatus and the COE’s political program as a first level of pan-European political coordination that precedes the European Union’s membership.