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Vilnius unveils latest additions to Open Gallery

Dutch duo Telmo Miel, as well as up-and-coming Lithuanian artist Eglė Žvirblytė, are just some of the latest creators to add murals to the increasingly essential Open Gallery in Vilnius.

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.

According to Živilė Diawara, one of the project’s founders, the gallery plays a vital role in rejuvenating abandoned spaces.

“The idea behind the Open Gallery is to show how art can help transform entire industrial quarters, as everything – from the roofs to the walls – can act as platforms for creators,” says Diawara. “Often, the artist’s task is to express transformation, revival, all kinds of freedom. By creating their art here, the artists completely change the face of a former Soviet industrial territory. Compared to what was here before, the change is enormous. When we first started developing our projects here, I told my friends that only art could save this place. They were laughing, but it is happening.”

The gallery displays a range of styles and techniques, from graffiti-style art to genre-bending abstract works.

Telmo Miel, the Dutch artist duo of Telmo Pieper and Miel Krutzmann, talked about their work for the Open Gallery.

“As the city is reviving the area, we were asked to create an art piece that would speak of this process of change. To do so, we decided to do a mural of a modern boy with a classic crown on his head. It shows how the next generation is leading the charge into the future.”

Egle Žvirblytė, a young Lithuanian artist who has already exhibited her work in the galleries of New York, Miami, London, Tokyo, and Melbourne, among other cities, uses art to explore themes of humanism, mindfulness, identity, and female power.

After years of studying, living and working abroad, the artist was excited to create a large scale artwork in her hometown.

Egle Žvirblytė

“While I was making a sketch for the mural, I asked myself: ‘What do I want to say to the place that I come from?’” says Žvirblytė. “So I looked at myself growing up here, thinking about all the personal walls I had to break through: the anxieties I had, the mistakes I made, the fears I’ve conquered. In the end, the lesson is that it’s only our own ideas that limit us. So my artwork says: go ahead and make all the mistakes you want to make! That’s the only way to grow.”

The spread of street art in the Lithuanian capital doesn’t stop with the Open Gallery. New murals are steadily appearing around the city, with the ‘independent artist republic’ of Užupis, the Stoties neighbourhood, and Naujamiestis at the forefront of the change.

What’s more, Živilė Diawara and the team behind Open Gallery are also responsible for Loftas, a former radio factory-turned-arts venue, where concerts, performances, conferences, and festivals are organized all year round. One of the highlights of the Loftas year is an inner city music and arts festival, Loftas Fest, taking place this weekend.

Photos: Go Vilnius