VILNIUS - When, in 1979, Isroildzon Baroti came to Lithuania from Tajikistan to study ceramics in the Lithuania State Art Institute, he could not imagine he would find two loves of his life: his wife Andzelika and an art gallery in Klaipeda. For more than a decade the Baroti Art Gallery, with its homey atmosphere, has been a meeting place for dealers and artists. Many a cigarette has burned late into the night amid idea-pregnant conversations.
The gallery is located in one a fachwerk house on one of the city's cobbled streets. It was a salt storehouse a hundred years ago, but today stands as one of the fachwerk buildings the Germans left behind in Lithuania. Tour guides often point out its historic significance while making it clear that it is also an oasis for those looking for Lithuanian art in Klaipeda.
"It was not difficult to establish an art gallery in those times," says Baroti. "I partly saw the gallery as a game, but now it turned into a place for family and friends."
"I studied art. Thus, in the beginning of the gallery's beginning, I invited my friends to exhibit their work." The gallery's circle has only gotten bigger in the years since.
Today the gallery organizes 15 exhibitions every year (approximately one every three weeks), participates in international projects in Scandinavia, Germany and Poland, and arranges symposiums for local and foreign artists. Every Christmas, it hosts a ball with art auctions, programs and a hearty atmosphere.
The second floor houses the gallery's more permanent collection of contemporary and realistic Lithuanian art. There are canvases by Jonas Svazas rarely seen in the art market and early period paintings of the Lithuanian bard Klaudijus Petrulis. The gallery also houses a full assortment of artists who have been inspired by Lithuania's great port city.
In Lithuania you can transport any work of art outside the country as long as its younger than 50 years. The gallery's clients include Germans, Swedes, Finns and Americans. Baroti sees a bright and expanding future for his little gallery. Some come to buy glass or ceramics, but most just want to buy a painting. It seems everyone just wants to hang a genuine Lithuanian canvas on their walls.
Baroti Art Gallery
Aukstoji str. 3/3a
Open: Monday through Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm