A Vision of the Collection and Historical Versions
National Gallery of the 20th c. Lithuanian Art
On April 17, 2001,
after 10 years of sustained efforts by the Lithuanian Artists
Association and a continued disscusion in the present publication, the
Art Council of the Culture Ministry approved a general concept of the
National Art Gallery whose mission is to accumulate, research and present
Lithuanian art of the 20th and 21st c. to the local and foreign audience.
Based on the concept, the opening of the National Art Gallery should
be related with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first
Lithuanian Exhibition in January of 2007.
Over the last decade,
the discussions of the possibility of a national 20th c. art gallery
have repeatedly tackled different aspects of the idea. This idea was
to create a national collection representing Lithuanian
art of the second half of the 20th c., while the establishment of a
concrete institution, the National Gallery, the history of which is
reviewed in the article, does not necessarily reflect the expectations,
which have emerged in the midst of these discussions.
The aspiration to have a national gallery was generated in the mid 1980s
by the most prestigious artists organization, the then Artists
Union of Soviet Lithuania. The Culture Fund was in support of the idea.
Fund raising for the future gallery also started. In the late 1980s,
a suggestion was made to continue the already started collection of
funds and to set up a public commission in charge of the project. Yet
in 1989, the Artists Union experienced disturbing changes of separation
from the Soviet Artists Union. In the early 1990s, the Lithuania
Culture Congress championed freedom and rights of a liberated artist,
including participation in drawing cultural legislation. Suggestions
to set up a public body in charge of establishing a national gallery
were reiterated. With the decentralization of cultural policy and the
change of art purchasing procedures, in 1991, the Artists Association
decided to endow the exhibitions fund of the Artists Association
to the museums. Yet the idea of a national gallery was watered down
by interior ideological contradictions. Now emerged two visions of the
collection: that of official and unofficial art of the Soviet period.
The Association also lost previous momentum in participating in the
process of organizing a national gallery.
Based on the documentation, a subdivision of the Lithuanian Art Museum,
currently called National Gallery, started operating as of June 1993,
but was established not by a ministerial decree, but by that of the
museums director. It is critical to point out that no new institution
was founded nor any new guidelines were drawn. The gallery opened with
the exhibition of émigré art donated to Lithuania and
continues accumulating the works of émigré artists, without
even questioning the real artistic value of this lavishly donated heritage.
The local artists, in contrast, are no longer willing to
donate their works for the gallery, moreover, reluctant to sell them.
Because their works would be purchased for the abundant stocks of the
old museums, but not the NEW National Gallery