Culture and the arts are powerful agents of peace. The dialogue between cultural institutions, including private ones, is built on fostering personal relationships that transcend traditional diplomacy. As such, it is crucial to international understanding and cooperation. Museums, art collectors and cultural representatives can help further understanding and prosperity through art, overcoming age-old suspicions and the unstable nature of international relations. This panel explored the intersection of art and diplomacy.
Date : 12 November 2019
Paris, France – Grande Halle de La Villette, Agora 1
Watch the full debate
- Moderator: Steven Erlanger, Chief Diplomatic Correspondent for Europe, The New York Times
- Franck Riester, Minister of Culture, France
- HE Noura Bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, United Arab Emirates
- Marina Loshak, Director, Pouchkine Museum of Fine Arts, Russia
- Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan, Founder, The Leiden Collection; President, ALIPH, President, The Electrum Group
- Anibal Jozami, President, Bienalsur
Key takeaways of the discussion
- Franck Riester supported the development of digital and ‘outreach’ cultural policies such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates or the Centre Pompidou in Shanghai. These policies expose the world’s heritage to the greatest number and help improve understanding between peoples, as well as exchanges and residencies for foreign artists. “We must be able to share and make available as many of humanity’s works as possible to demonstrate that despite our differences, despite our different cultures and histories, we can come together around beauty and universal emotions,” he stated. He also explained how partnerships between international museums could enable countries to maintain relations even in times of tension, as illustrated by the loan of works by Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael to Italy. On the sensitive issue of the restitution of ill-acquired African works of art, the Minister discussed the avenues his government is considering, adding that this process should also be carried out at the European level: restitution of certain works and circulation of works to give Africans access to their heritage and that of the entire world with a support policy when it comes to museum engineering and conservation.
- H.E. Noura Bint Mohammed Al Kaabi urged governments to increase their efforts to make art accessible to all, including with the help of technology. She also stressed the importance of connectivity in a globalized and connected where understanding cultural differences is crucial to any form of change. She highlighted the importance of rebuilding heritage works after conflicts, giving the example of Mosul, and explained why rebuilding places of worship and culture was vital to enable communities to flourish and coexist and youth to grow with shared foundations of mutual understanding.
- Marina Loshak reminded the audience that culture can help bring countries together in times of tension. A good example is the Dialogue de Trianon initiative, which enables Franco-Russian economic, cultural and intellectual stakeholders to engage in conversation, get closer and overcome any misunderstandings. She then recommended giving local actors more consideration, explaining that global phenomena are the aggregation of scattered local phenomena. Furthermore, it is also on this scale that global phenomena spread. It is therefore crucial to give local stakeholders more importance and to mix local and global elements.
- Thomas Kaplan demonstrated the benefits of bringing works from private collections back into the public space and described what he and his wife had undertaken for the Leiden Collection, their personal collection of 250 17th century Dutch masterpieces. Their circulation in various parts of the world is a way of showing people the universality of art, its place in the history of mankind, and not an initiative with imperialist aims. He summed up their approach as such: “At a time when people were building walls and breaking bridges, we were building bridges.” He outlined the humanistic role that art has to play in resisting the current waves of extremism and nationalism. He said that the Louvre Abu Dhabi was a strong symbol of openness and tolerance between cultures and civilizations in a region where many cities and heritage masterpieces had been destroyed by terrorist obscurantism.
- Anibal Jozami gave the example of Bienalsur, the International Contemporary Art Biennial of South America, which brings art to a new public and “to the poorest sections of the population” rather than reserving it for the elite. Citing the example of Venezuela and Colombia, he said that in a context of regional tensions, art could play an important role in the resumption of relations between countries and “be used as a way of influencing international relations.” Exhibitions help to disseminate the values of respect for cultural diversity and the possibility of coexisting in a peaceful manner, or to reduce prejudices, as was the case during artistic exchanges organized between Argentina and Saudi Arabia.
Read the article by Anibal Jozami on the Medium blog of the Paris Peace Forum.