People care about identity. Look at what’s happening in Catalonia or Britain today and it’s obvious that questions of national (and individual) identity can bring about profound political changes. We are constantly being reminded that the world is more than just dull, grey rationalism.

We had a comment sent in from Gustav, who argues that European art (the kind we all learned about in school) has helped to define a common European culture:

Image of a citizenThere is definitely a European culture. You cannot speak about the Northern European Albrecht Dürer or Jan van Eyk without speaking about the Southern European Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci. Nor discuss Shakespeare without acknowledging the influence of Classic Greece. Nor Chopin without Bach. The cross-cultural influences were so immense that none of the cultures in Europe stayed isolated, culminating in a European culture.

To get a reaction to Gustav, we spoke to Felipe Santos Rodríguez, Director of the Cervantes Institute in Brussels, a Spanish government agency dedicated to promoting Spanish language and culture around the world. What would he say to Gustav?

Of course, I think European art is a part our common heritage. But, to be a bit provocative, it’s worth considering what E. H. Gombrich wrote in his masterpiece ‘The Story of Art’: There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists.

There is no ‘Art’ in a strict way, there are artists. What we have in Europe is a group of artists across the ages that gave us a common heritage, and common references in and around our daily lives. European history is long and it’s made up both of things that we got right and things that we got wrong, and we learn from that. That’s probably the best goal for so-called ‘European’ artists.

But do Europeans really care about artists like Jan van Eyk or Leonardo da Vinci (or, indeed, writers like Miguel de Cervantes)? Aren’t they more interested (as John argues) in a global culture, dominated by American pop music, films, and TV?

It’s true that the fundamental common ground in art and culture is universal. Ultimately, art is universal. And artists have always been influenced by other artists from other cultures. There are no ‘pure’ artists not influenced by others. The same thing happens in America, whose culture is also influenced by (and reacting to) European art and culture. But we live in an interconnected world, and even our pop culture is building on what came before.

Does European art represent a common cultural heritage? Or is global culture, led by Hollywood and pop music, more relevant? Does art bring us together? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Jesús Belzunce Gómez
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43 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    Well we did share a similar history that is intertwined quite a lot and inspired a lot of art. So yeah, I’d say it does.

  2. avatar
    Uli Czeranka

    National states were established in the 19th century in most parts of europe. So yeah

  3. avatar
    Debby Teusink

    Absolutely, the heritage of Greece & Rome and the role christendom played and still plays, together makes a very special common European culture.

  4. avatar
    Ivan Burrows

    Given there is such a massive different across ‘Europe’ the answer is no, there is no such thing as a common European culture.

  5. avatar
    Sabin Popescu

    culture either belongs to the people that created it or to the entire world. certainly not to a fictive entity

  6. avatar
    Mindaugas Valentukevicius

    Well… yeah, and in a broader sense so is the way a culture perceives music, its styles, how it is passed on. There are somethings which all europeans have in common due to the age of enlightenment or our other great developments, and there are also nation specific things. Some, like that in catalonia or the uk may even resurface as a cause of a national desire for some kind of change. All european nations are not the same, there are many ways to cut that particular cake – could do west-east, could add the north-south divisions. Could go more specific into romance/latino groupings versus germanic or nordic. Baltic or Slavic? Is it about art? Why does it have to be – art is merely fashion of the canvas or stone. It is true that, due to the interconnectedness of europe at all times, these things were also transferred. Similarly to religion – previously we all were pagan, now we are all (at least on paper) christian. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a bunch of Frenchies have a lot to do with a bunch of Croats or Icelanders.

  7. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar


    The term ‘European Art’ undermines the significance of Roman culture and too Christianity over the last 2 millennia.

    • avatar

      I take it you never heard of Indo-Europeans, Yamna culture, the Enlightenment, Renaissance etc…

  8. avatar
    catherine benning

    Does European art represent a common cultural heritage?

    It represents far more cultural, scientific and artistic unity. It represents tribal union. It underlines every aspect of our common evolution. The distance between the equator and the pole producers the perfect climate for the promotion of brain growth. To near the equator dulls the cells expanding from too much heat and the freezing air of the poles likewise blocks the flow of blood to renew its cells productively. Hence the European connection of evolution not represented in any other sphere of the planet.

    It does not mean other human groups do not have the ability in their brain cells. It simply means we had the ultimate conditions to explore and exploit the amazing potential of mankind as no others have been able to do.

    The power and beauty of this connection on every level of human experience crosses every border we have.

    The collaborative artistic genius to encapsulate the emotion of the worldwide human condition. Solely European.

    Where else would you find such perfection? Or, more, the heart to move in such glorious spirit.

    The ability for scientific mastery as well as the quality of artistic mastery.

    Then their was philosophy


    Hopefully this soupçon will begin a new insight into excellence and what it brings to mankind and the world.

    I can’t add the amazing list that would bring our cultural heritage into its lone exceptionalism. Which we grossly underestimate and constantly seek to diminish and deny. There lies the enigma. This endless shame of our heritage when it should be heralded relentlessly.

  9. avatar
    Coralee De Fréine

    What common European cultural heritage would that be? We are individual nations with remarkably different cultures and traditions.

    12/11/2018 André Wilkens, Director of the European Cultural Foundation, has responded to this comment.

    12/11/2018 Kezz, a Belgrade-based producer, live looping artist, and singer-songwriter, has responded to this comment.

  10. avatar

    Of course it does, as it follows the same art trends.

    Art is part of cultural identity btw. When archaeologists dig up a new culture they try and identify it by the art (pottery etc) whether it is new and unique, imported or forms part of a continuum with other cultures etc.

  11. avatar
    Pedro Pais de Vasconcelos

    Of course there is common cultural european heritage… and Islam has a part of it.

    12/11/2018 André Wilkens, Director of the European Cultural Foundation, has responded to this comment.

    12/11/2018 Kezz, a Belgrade-based producer, live looping artist, and singer-songwriter, has responded to this comment.

    • avatar
      Lynne Warner

      And just now it will have all of it.

    • avatar
      My name

      I agree, but not in the way you would expect. For a majority of modern history Europe was Christian and the Islam’s attack on Christianity certainly could have been one of the factors bringing Europeans together (the infamous crusades were merely a response to the great Muslim aggression). There are of course European contries that have more Muslim believers (such as Bosnia and Herzegovina or Albania), but they didn’t have much impact on common European culture or identity.

  12. avatar
    Rumy B Milten

    Art should be forbidden because it insults Islam. Also, recognising European heritage is racist.

  13. avatar
    Ivan Burrows

    No, it represents the heritage of 51 Nations, the idea of a common European heritage is at best idiotic and at worse cultural appropriation.

    • avatar
      Sari Bruno

      You are wrong. There exists common European heritage and art.

    • avatar
      Ivan Burrows

      Sari Bruno Example please ?

    • avatar
      Lynne Warner

      Please list all the commonalities!

    • avatar

      Sari Bruno Please give examples.

  14. avatar
    valter conti

    Higer legal framework of the cultural sector legacy under the rule of law

    The framework of pan-European cooperation reference in the cultural sector is the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe on the value of the assets (heritage culture) for the society. The cultural heritage (which according to Paul Carpenteri, State Councillor should be translated in italian with “cultural legacy”) in the definition of the Faro Convention is a set of resources inherited from the past that people identify, regardless of who owns the property, as a reflection and expression of their values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions, evolving.
    The Community concept of cultural heritage, which is the heritage as a cultural common good is divided into:
    a. all forms of cultural heritage in Europe which form, together, a shared source of remembrance, understanding, identity, cohesion and creativity (right of cultural heritage); ,
    b. the ideals, principles and values, derived from the experience gained through progress and taking advantage of past conflicts, which foster the development of a peaceful and stable society, founded on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law(right to cultural heritage).
    The Paris Convention of 2005 on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is spoken of “cultural expressions”, “culture”, “cultural diversity”, “cultural contents”, “activities, cultural goods and services”, “industries cultural “,” cultural policies and measures “, but not” heritage. ”
    The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, adopted in Paris on 17 October 2003, ratified by the Law of 27 September 2007 no. 167 relates to (Art. 2) the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, know-how -as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith -that communities, groups and in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. That Convention provides for the selective object detection and its scope (real and legal) of application, in Article 12, the compilation by each Contracting State in accordance with its situation, one or more inventories of intangible cultural heritage present in its territory to be updated regularly.
    The scope of safeguard denotation appears somewhat more assimiliabile verses the traditional notion of cultural good transposed from the 2004 italian code, although it refers, precisely, to intangible assets. “Cultural asset” is not the thing (res) that represents it. It is a legal classification, referring to one thing because of the so-called ‘reality’ of the cultural property: an immaterial connotation, an incorporeal quality attribution that reflects a social appreciation of what representative capacity, ascertained officially and “erga omnes” recognized. The thing is the support, the cultural property is its public value.
    In the case of the entertainment services of urban arts such as support is the urban or natural area of ​​special protection as a heritage inherited according to the code, while the cultural property would be the activity that is practiced to protect and promote in the expression and to be protected as an intangible value. The report often confused and full of misunderstandings between these different acts-source ie: value of traditions, protection of expressions and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage with their “worlds” reference was exceeded widely and masterfully with the introduction of the second corrective decree and integrative in 2008 to Italian code Article 7a: “the expressions of identity ‘by the Conventions collective cultural contemplated UNESCO for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and the protection and promotion of diversity’ cultural, adopted in Paris, respectively, November 3, 2003 and October 20, 2005, qualify for the provisions of this code if they are represented by materials and testimonies respects the conditions and the conditions for the applicability ‘of Article 10 “.
    The intangible value of the cultural property is closely tied to the good conferred and is therefore a “unique” value, so to speak monopoly. To explain the immanence of ‘ “legal” immaterial on the thing which material evidence there is recognition of the dynamic link and then pluralistic Article 9 of italian Constitution: The Republic promotes the development of culture, protection of the landscape and the historical and artistic national heritage. Within a single, larger set, defined by the notion of cultural heritage as a cultural legacy of the Faro Convention, there are two smaller sets, but distinct doi between them, the intangible cultural heritage and cultural heritage materials. The cultural environment, with aspects of the tradition of the uses and customs, as well as aspects of contemporary constitutional law that is the basis of the European law. Article. 167 TFEU states that: The Union shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the member states, while respecting their national and regional diversity and also highlighting their common cultural heritage “means the lemma cultural heritage, that there figure exactly in the proper meaning of cultural diversity Faro Convention, with cultural legacy. Also in the second paragraph .: Union action shall be aimed at encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, supporting and supplementing their action in the following areas:
    – Improvement of the knowledge and dissemination of the culture and history of the European peoples,
    – Conservation and safeguarding of cultural heritage of European importance (eg. With the establishment of the European heritage label)
    – Non-commercial cultural exchanges, artistic and literary creation, including in the audiovisual sector.

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