VILNIUS - Visitors to the art exhibition "Mongolian Highlights" appear to be carefully studying the delicate golden lines of the paintings when they discreetly lean toward the canvasses to give them a sniff. Ordinarily, this curious form of art appreciation might seem a bit bizarre. However, it's not all that weird when you learn that these works of art depicting animals are actually painted on real horse leather.
The Vartai Gallery in Vilnius is hosting the first exhibition of Mongolian contemporary art in Lithuania, and it's a fascinating show, both artwise and, yes, smellwise.
Besides traditional Mongolian painting and relief technique on horse leather, the exhibition, entitled "Mongolian Highlights," has put together over 50 works of contemporary Mongolian artists. These select paintings offer a rare chance to explore the intricacies of an art that embraces influences from Tibet, Buddhism and Western expressionism.
Influenced by the country's unusual geographical conditions and traditional values, the Mongolian artists on display both celebrate and explore their unique culture. Some of the paintings depict nomadic huts surrounded by herds of horses and camels that seem to sink in the distant hills of a Mongolian landscape. While the portraits of contemporary Mongolian women tenderly and subtly reveal their exotic beauty.
In cooperation with the Union of Mongolian Artists, the exhibition was arranged to reflect a wide range of art techniques including painting, textiles, graphics and calligraphy from some of the most renowned figures in Mongolian art.
Artists such as Dolgorjavin Bold, Shagdarjavin Chimeddorj and Tsultemin Munkhjin have previously participated in various international exhibitions and art triennials and were awarded with special prizes in Japan, South Korea and Sofia.
"Mongolian Highlights" is actually the second opportunity this year for those Vilniusites with an interest in this fascinating, almost mythical country to learn more about its rich culture and to get acquatinted with an art that helps preserve its unique nomadic culture. Earlier this year a Mongolian documentary called "The Story of a Weeping Camel" was screened in Vilnius and, perhaps surprisingly, tickets were snapped up a week in advance. The film was highly praised by both critics and public alike.
It's pretty likely that "Mongolian Highlights" will be similarly popular, as it's sure to attract not only art buffs but also those many Vilniusites with a taste for the exotic.
And don't forget to take deep breaths while circling around the gallery. Besides horse leather, you might also be able to smell a paint that is traditionally produced from mare-milk alcohol.
Vilniaus St. 39, Vilnius
Open: Tue - Fri: Midday - 6 p.m.
Sat: Midday - 4 p.m.