The Portuguese city of Guimaraes and Maribor in Slovenia were honored with the title of "European Capital of Culture" in 2012. Amid economic crisis, both cities opted for long-term, sustainable projects as opposed to expensive spectacles. It was a different story in Germany this year, where myriad exhibitions were staged to celebrate 300th birthday of the Prussian King Frederick the Great.
The art world also celebrated another birthday: German painter Gerhard Richter's, born on February 9, 1932. Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie opened its doors to a large retrospective of works by the contemporary icon of art. Just a few blocks away, movie fans flocked to the Berlinale. The Golden Bear went to the Italian film "Cesar Must Die." Christian Petzold secured a Silver Bear for "Barbara."
"Art of the Enlightenment" went on show at the National Museum in Beijing from February 4, 2011 to March 31, 2012. The German foreign office invested six million euros in the largest exhibition of German art on foreign soil. Critics argued that it was a waste of time and money since there could be no free discussion in China about the Enlightenment.
It's not often that a poem causes a storm of controversy. The 84-year-old Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass made the conflict between Israel and Iran the central theme of his poem, "What Must Be Said." He claimed Israel posed a threat to world peace, which caused a wave of criticism and accusations of anti-Semitism. Others felt his critique of Germany supplying weapons to Israel was justified.
The summer brought with it another plagiarism scandal. The German education minister Annette Schavan, of all people, was accused of plagiarizing parts of her doctoral dissertation. Also in May, German author Felicitas Hoppe was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize. Her daring narrative cosmos played with truth and fiction, merging time and space.
Under the curatorship of Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, swarms of visitors headed for Documenta 13 in Kassel. It wasn't just artists who took part, rather scientists and creatives of all classes were among the 297 names involved. Satellite events also took place in Kabul, Cairo and Canada. With 860,000 attendees, Documenta 13 set a new record at the box office.
Russian bass baritone Evgeny Nikitin was forced to cancel his appearance in Richard Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman" at the Bayreuth Festival. The reason? A swastika tattoo and other Nazi symbols etched on his skin. In Klagenfurt in July, author Olga Martynova won the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, the most important award for emerging literary talent in Germany.
The German Emigration Center Bremerhaven is Germany's first museum for migration. After re-opening following an extension in April 2012, a new exhibition on the trafficking of women opened in August. The exhibition shows the fates of tens of thousands of girls and young women who were forced to leave their homes and engage in prostitution in Europe between 1860 and 1930.
For the first time in Germany, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne staged a retrospective of the work of comic book artist Art Spiegelman. He's the author of "Maus," a pictorial account of his father's experiences during the Holocaust. In order to foster tolerance, Germany's first multi-faith religious school for Christians, Muslim and Jewish children opened in Osnabrück in September.
Chinese author Mo Yan was awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Literature. His work was inspired by stories from his local village. The award provoked a number of protests from critics who argued that Yan is too close to the Chinese regime.
Katharina Wagner, the great-granddaughter of composer Richard Wagner, found things too chaotic in Buenos Aires and resigned from her role as director of a compact version of "The Ring of Nibelung." At seven hours long, the piece was adapted to the history of Argentina. Described as a "future visionary," the German-Iranian Navid Kermani was awarded the Kleist Prize 2012 in November.
A century ago, on December 6, 1912, the German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt found a bust in the studio of the sculptor Thutmose. He soundly established that it was a likeness of Queen Nefertiti. Since 2009, the sculpture of Nefertiti has stood in an especially dedicated room in the north wing of the Neues Museum in Berlin, where a new exhibition celebrates the archaeological find.
From Documenta 13 to the political poems of Günter Grass, DW looks back at the cultural highlights of 2012.