The grand house of art

  • 2011-09-21
  • By Sam Logger

NEW TENANT: The old stock market building is now home to the foreign art collection.

RIGA - Every nation tends to protect its national cultural heritage. Still, just as important are works of foreign art, which supplement the local legacy with its feelings, meanings and experiences. In the middle of August the foreign art collections met their new home, when the cultural complex, or the art museum Riga Bourse, re-opened its doors after years of reconstruction. From now on this building will function as the cultural grounding for all art admirers and practitioners from all over the world.

This architectural monument, built in the middle of the 19th century, now enters a new era for foreign art, which was on exhibit in Riga Palace for 90 years, offering the biggest foreign cultural collection which can be found in the Baltic countries, which it has collected from the 18th century till nowadays. The building today marks out the cultural fortune of Eastern and Western art, such as art of the Dutch golden era or the period of German and Austrian romanticism.

One of the current exhibitions, to be hosted till Dec. 4, shows porcelain art of the Eastern cultures and the Netherlands providing an interaction between these two worlds during the 17th century. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a journey which displays the fragility of Chinese and Japanese masterpieces and some sort of a heaviness of European factories. However, the exhibition does not give the message that Eastern porcelain is more attractive. Quite the opposite – it seemingly demonstrates the similarities in understanding of people, no matter where they are. Thus, five rooms, where these items are presented, let us return to history and evaluate their dedication to ‘life,’ as the main motifs portray nature, people and their simple collaboration.
It is possible to see contours of birds and flowers and how they charge the energy in colors of blue and white without any difficulties. Maybe this is what this porcelain art conveys today – being a form of status some centuries ago, it now becomes a mirror image of people who were eager to underline the relations of a person and nature.

Yet, the exhibition somehow pales in front of the bourse itself, especially if your visit to the art museum is your first. This is a place which can arguably be an entrance to the past, while retaining the breath of the modern. Basically, the bourse can easily work as an exhibition item as well, surprising with details, like the clock in the atrium or the pompous interior which guides everyone who uses the stairs to the exhibition halls. Of course, it all makes the bourse a perfect venue to showcase foreign paintings, fine arts, applied arts and graphics and clearly is a perfect tool to show Riga’s former glory, which apparently has returned.

Additionally, the bourse serves as a new cultural educator securing activities which depend on the interests of history, therefore the museum offers discussion clubs, creative workshops and educational programs, to increase the love for both history and culture.

The foreign art seems to gain a fresh look in the eyes of residents and visitors of Riga. Possibly, with the reconstruction of this historical building, culture has also been reconstructed. It is not just a feeling that art has gotten an original space, where to be seen; it is an understanding and attitude that culture is important, indeed. So, has the Riga Bourse found its best use? Obviously we need to say “yes.”