Around a month before the opening of Steirisches Herbst, an arts festival which takes place in the picturesque Austrian town of Graz every September, the event’s new director and chief curator Ekaterina Degot was reading the news that Vladimir Putin’s private jet was pulling into city’s airport. “Why is he here?” the Russian curator asked herself.

Putin wasn’t in Graz for the festival, of course—he was there to attend the wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl. But as Degot now prepares for the festival’s hot-button exhibition, “Volksfronten” (or “People’s Fronts”), opening this Thursday, she thought that it was an uncanny coincidence that Putin should have showed up in August. After all, the Russian president has become an emblem of strongman politics and brazen nationalism and Degot was launching an intensive, month-long show set to tackle the complexities of Europe’s nationalist resurgence. “This creates an interesting situation for me,” she thought. Read more