art 2002/1
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Algirdas Griškevičius. Senamiesčio sonata
Drobė, aliejus, 90 x 60, 1998


Galleries: Declarations and Practice

by Ieva Dilytė

The showcasing and preservation of contemporary Lithuanian art is one of currently most disputed issues. A discussion initiated by the Artists’ Association, “Artist and Gallery” (28 02 2002), focused on art galleries. The debate on the issues of the art market was expected to find ways of harmonizing the interests of artists, galleries and art consumers. Yet it is obvious that private galleries and those run by the institutions have little in common. The latter group needs immediate restructuring, as their operations fall short of actual art market demands.
The collaboration between galleries and artists in Lithuania is clouded by uncertainty. The current number of art galleries in Lithuania is 50 with additional several virtual galleries. In theory, private and institutional galleries seek the same: to sell works of art, yet the galleries run by the institutions seem to exist in a limbo, struggling between the market laws and the institutional strategy. The latter is often driven by the curators’ ambitions to create an image and fails to envisage the venues for commercial success. Of course, in a full-blooded art market, commercial galleries should not exclude the existence of those who perform a representational function. The option of priorities, whether artistic, commercial, educational or a combination of these, is for the gallery (or an institution) to make.
A scapegoat for their failures, the artists and the galleries find in a sluggish Lithuanian art market, which, in turn, depends on art consumers’ purchasing power. To invigorate this market, it might be useful to look at Western experience. One of inspiring examples could be SOFA, organized in New York City and Chicago annually, which features USA and European galleries. This year the event is being organized with New York’s Crafts Museum and Sotheby’s NY, and will include a week of applied arts and a wide educational program. It is a mass event targeting both, nonprofessional viewers and specialists.
None could compose a universal gallery’s success recipe, but clear priorities and guidelines should provide a shot in the arm on the road to success as would also certainly do consistency in declarations, aims and means to achieve them.

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