Review 2019: How commemoration and controversy shaped Europe's cultural year

What has made the news in culture over this last year?
What has made the news in culture over this last year? Copyright Euronews
By Luke Hurst
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It was a mixed year for Europe's culture vultures. Anniversaries such as the Berlin Wall provided a timely excuse to revisit a landmark historical event. But there was no shortage of controversy, too.


Controversy and commemoration have shaped Europe's cultural year.

Most notably among the anniversaries have been 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and 500 on from the death of Leonardo da Vinci.

The former saw exhibitions about the wall, the cold war and how Berlin has changed.

Meanwhile, the life and work of the Italian Renaissance polymath was celebrated across Europe through various exhibitions and events. Da Vinci's most famous artwork, the Mona Lisa, returned to the Louvre Museum in Paris after ten months of restoration.

But the world of culture also had some scandal.

Plácido Domingo, the Spanish opera star, was accused by more than 20 women of sexual harassment. He denied any wrongdoing, but stepped down as general director of the Los Angeles Opera and has withdrawn from all future appearances with the New York Metropolitan Opera.

The award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Austrian writer Peter Handke also triggered controversy. Handke’s denial of Serb atrocities during the war in the former Yugoslavia and his decision to attend the funeral of war criminal Slobodan Milosević was roundly criticised across the world.

Far less contentiously, the two European Capitals of Culture of the year: Plovdiv and Matera, were a celebration of rich cultural heritage. Bulgaria’s second-largest city, Plovdiv, can look back on 8,000 years of history through Thracian, Celtic, Roman and Ottoman influences.

The southern Italian city of Matera is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world - people have been living there since the Neolithic period in the 10th millennium BC.

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