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European academies issue joint manifesto to protect freedom of arts

Signatories of the “Berlin Manifesto” include the Académie française and Arts Council England. It has been endorsed by Wim Wenders, Ken Loach and A. L. Kennedy among others

Wim Wenders, A. L. Kennedy and Ken Loach have endorsed the letter Wenders: © Donata Wenders; Loach: Paul Crowther

Sixty art academies and cultural institutions from European Union nations, the UK and Norway have forged an alliance to protect artistic freedom in Europe and issued a manifesto stating that “the independence of artistic positions and institutions from political, national and religious prescriptions is the foundation of democracy.”

Signatories of the “Berlin Manifesto” include the Académie française, the German Akademie der Künste, the Arts Council England, and the Italian Academy of the Arts of Drawing. Two academies from Hungary, where artists have faced government constraints, joined the call: the Society of Hungarian Authors and the Széchenyi Academy of Arts and Letters.

“In some European countries we are currently experiencing cultural policies that understand art and culture only nationally and are increasingly regulating them,” the declaration says. “The autonomy of many academies, museums and cultural institutions is being jeopardised.”

“We stand for the freedom of the arts as a prerequisite for our cultural, social and political way of life,” it says, calling for “unified solidarity between the art and cultural institutions in Europe.”

The manifesto was issued at a conference hosted by the German Akademie der Künste from 8-10 October. An array of well-known artists have endorsed it, including the film-makers Wim Wenders and Ken Loach and the Scottish writer A. L. Kennedy.

“We urgently need this European alliance of academies and cultural institutions in order to offer a quick-witted and powerful stand against the enemies of democracy,” said Ulrike Ottinger, a German film-maker.