Culture, Travel & Sport

In Vilnius, an open air exhibition brings Lithuanian artists a new audience

Earlier this month, the Lithuanian capital Vilnius came up with yet another innovative solution to improve the city’s post-pandemic social and cultural life: a huge outdoor art gallery dubbed Art Needs No Roof, which makes use of outdoor advertising stands to exhibit 100 works by Lithuanian artists.

The quarantine closed the city’s art galleries for almost three months and kept artists from exhibiting their work and being able to reach out to audiences and collectors. As such, transforming the city into an open-air gallery was a creative way to bring the city’s art community some much-needed exposure.

The exhibition has been a huge success, and anyone lucky enough to find themselves in the city this weekend should look out for it: it ends on Sunday. And should you fancy buying any of the work on display, you can contact the artists directly via a special website, Art Needs No Roof, which includes their contact details.

“We hope that the project will stimulate creativity and some of the works will find their way into people’s homes,” says the city’s mayor, Remigijus Šimašius.

The pieces for the exhibition were selected according to several criteria: the portfolio of the author, the visuality of the work and its integration with the landscape of the city. The selection committee had the goal of composing an exhibition that would best represent Lithuanian art in all its variety.

Among the artists on display are Vilmantas Marcinkevičius, Vytenis Jankūnas, Laisvydė Šalčiūtė, Svajonė and Paulius Stanikas (SetP Stanikas), as well as Algis Kriščiūnas and Živilė Žvėrūna – a digital artist known for her interest in mythology and the development of human spirit.

“The quarantine was a special time for me as an artist,” says Ms Žvėrūna. “It was a time of reflection, when you can stop to think deeper about our society and the role that art plays in it. The pandemic made us find new ways to experience culture. That’s why this project is so interesting: for several weeks outdoor advertising stands are filled with works of art. I can now clearly see that curiosity and new experiences is replacing the universal fear of the first days of the pandemic.”

A virtual map can be used to navigate the exhibition. Algis Kriščiūnas, best known for his 2019 installation We Are Kings of Garbage suggests it makes a great day trip.

“Such a day could change the entire perception of the city,” he says. “I think that this project is a new window to the hearts of the audience. When art is exhibited only in galleries, the artists are excluded from society: not everyone will take time to come and see the exhibition. But Art Needs No Roof will be seen by everyone on the street.”

“People had no access to galeries for quite some time,” says Jolita Vaitkutė, an artist who uses food and other everyday objects for installations, performances and illustrations. “We still face many challenges, and the Art Needs No Roof exhibition offers a welcome respite. Not only does it create an opportunity for artists to display their work and reach an audience, it is also an opportunity for the audience to be inspired by pleasant and thought-provoking visuals in unexpected spaces.”

Vilnius has done as much as any city in the emerging Europe region to help individuals and businesses that have suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantine, frequently through some highly innovative solutions. The city gave up many public spaces for their use as open air cafes, while mannequins filled empty spaces at restaurant tables, displaying the collections of local clothes designers.

The city was creating a name for itself as the scene of open air art long before the Art Has No Roof project took shape. Its Open Gallery is a long-term interdisciplinary project situated in the post-industrial Naujamiestis district of the Lithuanian capital. Aimed at reinvigorating the formerly decaying neighbourhood with art, the Open Gallery showcases murals, installations and sculptures, as well as hosting performances and non-commercial cinema.

Photos by Saulius Ziura, courtesy Go Vilnius.

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