San Sebastián and Wroclaw take up the challenge as Capitals of Culture for 2016

Visual arts will play prominent part in cities’ cultural programmes


Last year’s European capitals of culture, Mons and Pilsen, have passed on the baton to the Spanish city of San Sebastián, in the Basque Country on the Bay of Biscay, and Wroclaw, Poland. While their event programmes, scheduled to last all year, cover anything and everything from food to technology, both cities are making efforts to include the visual arts in their offerings.

San Sebastián’s most prominent visual arts exhibition is the ambitious Peace Treaties: 1516-2016 (17 June-2 October), which will include around 300 works of art, as well as publications, seminars and conferences on the past 500 years of war and peace, as represented in the arts. Works by artists including Francisco Goya, Peter Paul Rubens, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Francisco de Zurbarán, Jusepe de Ribera, Pablo Picasso and Le Corbusier, as well as contemporary artists such as Hans Haacke, are on loan from institutions including the Louvre in Paris, and the Prado and Reina Sofía museums in Madrid. The show will be split between the San Telmo, San Sebastián’s museum of Basque history, and the nearby Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea cultural centre.

Wroclaw, meanwhile, has a cultural programme divided into eight parts: architecture, film, literature, music, opera, performance, visual arts and theatre, each with its own curator. The Polish critic and curator Michal Bieniek is heading up the visual arts programme, which includes the exhibition Wroclaw’s Europe (20 September-31 December), focusing on the art historical legacy of Wroclaw and Silesia. The exhibition begins with Bartholomeus Strobel the Younger (1591-around 1647), one of the greatest Silesian painters, who was born in the town. In a nod to its twin capital of culture, there will also be a presentation of work by the 20th-century Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida (15 January-13 March).