Sadik Al-Azm, Neil MacGregor and Eva Sopher are the recipients of this year’s Goethe Medals. The Syrian philosopher Sadik Al-Azm is one of the Arab world’s most authoritative intellectuals. Neil MacGregor is the director of the British Museum, the world’s second most-visited museum. Eva Sopher, president of the Theatro São Pedro, made a fundamental contribution to the cultural landscape of Porto Alegre with her passionate commitment to the performing arts.
Once a year, the Goethe-Institut awards the official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany to luminaries who have performed outstanding service for international cultural relations. “Equality of the cultures and the willingness to engage with other cultures are important prerequisites for their – and therefore our – coexistence,” remarked Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, the president of the Goethe-Institut, on the jury’s decisions. “Knowledge of origins and history is also an essential element of this. This year’s winners embody this attitude in their work in a very special way.” Lehmann will confer the medals on 28 August, the 216th anniversary of Goethe’s birth, at the Residential Palace in Weimar.
The motto of the 2015 award ceremony is The Spirit of History. The medals honour three international figures whose work significantly influences the cultural expression and public discourse of their nations and who also have close ties to German culture. For decades, Sadik Al-Azm has actively advocated the right to freedom of speech and for the rule of law and democracy while also championing understanding between the Arab-Islamic world and Western Europe. He was granted political asylum by Germany three years ago. MacGregor links complex art historical and historical themes in his exhibitions and uses his curatorial engagement to bring a broad audience closer to a new awareness of the past, most recently in the exhibition Germany: Memories of a Nation conceived for the anniversary of the fall of the wall. With the renowned Theatro São Pedro in Porto Alegre, Eva Sopher of Brazil created a unique international meeting place for performers of all stripes.
Since it was first awarded in 1955, a total of 338 figures from 62 countries have been honoured. The awardees have included Adonis, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Bourdieu, David Cornwell AKA John le Carré, Sir Ernst Gombrich, Lars Gustafsson, Agnés Heller, György Ligeti, Petros Markaris, Sir Karl Raimund Popper, Jorge Semprún, Robert Wilson and Helen Wolff.