The Polish city of Wroclaw and the Spanish Basque city of San Sebastian have begun their year-long stints as joint European Capitals of Culture for 2016, as last year's title holders, Mons and Plzen, handed over the batons.
Their event programmes are scheduled to last all year and are set to cover anything and everything from food to technology, but great efforts are being made to include the visual arts in their offerings.
San Sebastian’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.
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).
The cultural programme will officially begin on 17 January in Wroclaw in the presence of Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport; and on 23 January in San Sebastian.
Navracsics said: “Being a European Capital of Culture helps cities create a sense of community and brings long-lasting benefits to their citizens and their economies.
"I wish Wroclaw and San Sebastian every success as they showcase their cultural programmes in the coming year.”