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Sofia's Main Soviet Army Monument Gets Pop Art Facelift

Can Superman handle a Soviet machine-gun flanked by Santa Claus with binoculars and rifle, while McDonald's clown mascot Ronald drinks beer behind their backs?

All is possible in a witty pop art facelift of a symbolic Soviet army monument in central Sofia Saturday.

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French Artist Cancels China Show over Ai Detention

French sculptor Daniel Buren has decided to cancel an exhibition scheduled for mid-July in Beijing in "solidarity" with detained artist Ai Weiwei, he told Agence France Presse.

Buren, perhaps best known for his striped columns in the historic state-owned Palais Royal gardens near the Louvre in Paris, was to have shown a vast exhibit at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art from July 15.

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Chinese Copy of Austrian Village Stirs Emotions

It's a scenic jewel, a hamlet of hill-hugging chalets, elegant church spires and ancient inns all reflected in the deep still waters of an Alpine lake. Hallstatt's beauty has earned it a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site but some villagers are less happy about a more recent distinction: plans to copy their hamlet in China.

After taking photos and collecting other data on the village while mingling with the tourists, a Chinese firm has started to rebuild much of Hallstatt in faraway Guangdong province, a project that residents here see with mixed emotions.

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Indian State Plans World's Tallest Statue

The Indian state of Gujarat has invited global tenders to help build the world's tallest statue -- a 182-meter memorial to an independence hero that will cost $300 million.

The towering 597-feet figure, which would reach almost halfway up New York's Empire State Building, will bear the likeness of Vallabhbhai Patel, the freedom fighter who guided India's integration into a united, independent nation.

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Artists Occupy Historic Rome Theater, Protesting Closure

Around 100 people have occupied a historic Italian theater where Luigi Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of an Author" was first performed to protest plans to convert the landmark into a restaurant.

The Valle, which opened in the 18th century and was the site of Pirandello's famous opening in 1921, is Rome's oldest active theatre.

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Bulgaria Brings Home Smuggled Antiquities from Canada

Bulgaria has repatriated 21,000 smuggled coins, jewelry and other rare antiquities from Canada through diplomatic mail to save money, Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov said Thursday.

The seizure and return of the illegally imported cultural objects, which cover more than 2,600 years of Bulgarian history and are worth 707,000 Euros ($1 million), was the largest ever in Canada.

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Taiwan Scrubs Simplified Chinese Script

Taiwan, which sees itself as a guardian of traditional Chinese culture, has started cleansing government websites of the type of simplified script used in mainland China, officials said Thursday.

The Tourism Bureau, the main agency in charge of thousands of Chinese visitors arriving every day, was the first to remove simple characters, leaving only the more complex traditional version that is standard on the island.

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Open-Air Operas, a Classic -- if Chilly -- English Tradition

They sit on the grass in their posh frocks and dinner jackets, eating picnics between the two acts of Rossini's "Il turco in Italia". It's summer in England, and the open-air opera has returned.

Rain or shine, music-lovers bearing champagne and blankets are flocking in their thousands to glorious rural locations across Britain to enjoy the delights of Mozart, Wagner or Donizetti.

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Vatican Names First Winners of 'Ratzinger Prize' in Theology

Pope Benedict XVI will present the first Ratzinger Prize to three European theologians later this month, organizers said at the Vatican on Tuesday.

The award promotes dialogue between theology and culture at a time of "flagrant divorce" between the two, said Giuseppe della Torre, rector of Rome's Catholic LUMSA university.

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World's Top Contemporary Art Fair Opens Wednesday

The world's largest contemporary arts fair, which opens in Basel Wednesday, is set to receive some 60,000 art lovers to enjoy works by more than 2,500 artists.

The 42nd edition of Art Basel, which displays work produced in the 20th and 21st century, is still dominated by submissions from galleries in wealthy nations, organizers said.

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