art 2002/2

Solomonas Teitelbaumas. Vienatvė. 2002, aliejus, drobė, 120 x 100

Catalogue and Display

by Renata Ščerbavičiūtė

Catalogue is nowadays a primary means of documenting and recording an exhibition. In order to establish their position, the key art institutions publish catalogues and other art books.
Catalogues reflect current tendencies in curated exhibitions and mirror existing types of exhibitions. Texts published in catalogues appear to be either a parallel project, which augments the display, or a different from curator’s viewpoint on the event. An exhibition lacking a catalogue is almost like an incomplete work, therefore a catalogue can be interpreted like the last, summarizing exhibit.
The first good quality catalogues accompanied all annual exhibitions of the Soros Contemporary Art Center. The past decade saw interesting catalogues published for all major exhibitions set up by the Contemporary Art Center. Catalogues-monographs of individual artists and the series of small books Contemporary Lithuanian Artists, renewed in 2001 by the Lithuanian Artists’ Association, represent a different type of publications on art.
One can easily reconstruct these exhibitions-projects that were recorded in catalogues. The first conceptual exhibitions of the late 1980s revived the artistic process from stagnation. Curators revisited and "reconstructed" the image of Lithuanian art at the turn of the 20th century. The revolutionary exhibitions, curated by the art critics Raminta Jurėnaitė, Alfonsas Andriuškevičius, Rasa Andriušytė, Elona Lubytė and others, have acquired almost a mythical aura. Yet the breakthrough role of these events is almost understated by their thin, black and white catalogues.
In spite of the fact that conceptual shows and international projects have been growing in scale and popularity, not a single type of traditional exhibitions has become obsolete. Even overview exhibition has survived the scathing criticism to persist into the next decade.
The 1999 exhibition by the Contemporary Art Center Lithuanian Art in 1989 – 1999 pursued an ambitious goal to show the art of the decade as "a dynamic process of change". Most of the invited artists exhibited their signature works. The catalogue, featuring numerous art critics, attempted to reflect the shifts in Lithuanian art over the decade. Both the display and the catalogue stressed the leading Contemporary Art Center’s role in the evolution of artistic ideas. As a reaction to the 1999 event, in 2000 the Lithuanian Artists’ Association initiated another major overview exhibition Tradition and the Future. It focused on works in traditional mediums and demonstrated a disappearing division line between fine and applied arts.
Recently we have seen independently published collections of Lithuanian art coming out of press versus catalogues of actual exhibitions. The book 100 of Contemporary Lithuanian Artists (2001) crowned ten years of activity by the Soros Contemporary Art Center (now Contemporary Art Information Center). This "collection" introduced several generations of selected artists and their works. In its nature it reminds curated exhibitions by offering a vision of contemporary Lithuanian art. The representational album published by the Lithuanian Artists Association in 2002 has a structure based on traditional separation into genres and branches of art. Both publications aspire to offer the collection of "the best".
The key art institutions keep on searching for different ways to lend more significance to their activity. The 8th Baltic triennial of international art is unprecedented size-wise. The LAA has gathered the courage to revive the tradition of overview exhibitions. Most exhibitions routinely focus on recent past and their task is to probe for important processes and to discover artists and their works. Catalogues will do the conservation work.