The Russian Silver Age shines at Riga Bourse

  • 2012-11-28
  • By Sam Logger

RIGA - Art follows people. Painters take an image from society and transform it into something abstract, yet it seems real. The Latvian National Museum of Art, in collaboration with colleagues from Estonia and Lithuania, lets visitors explore the image of Russian art at the turn of the 20th century, opening the exhibition “The Silver Age. 1890-1930” at the Art Museum Riga Bourse.

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, new cultural tendencies appeared in Russian art, building a platform for different viewpoints of art and thought and challenging the creative societies to search for new artistic expressions. Not only did the Silver Age ensure the coexistence of Impressionism, Art Nouveau and symbolism, but also activated the movements of avant-garde, such as futurism, primitivism and abstractionism. The artists and followers of such societies as “Mir Iskusstva” (World of Art), “Golubaya Roza” (Blue Rose) and “Bubnoviy Valet” (Jack of Diamonds) filled the cultural space with unseen visions and expectations of the world, which are now presented in seven thematic sections at the exhibition: “Theatrical Fantasies,” “Light and Air,” “The Principles of New Art,” “The Call of Eternity,” “The Artist and City,” “The People of the Silver Age,” and “Primary Sources.”

“The exhibition shows Russian art from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th centuries as a unified whole in which various stylistic tendencies, brilliant artists and groups existed and interacted,” the exhibition’s curator Ksenija Rudzite notes. “Paradoxically, the harmony of the Silver Age is formed by opposites – new and old, outgoing and emerging.” Therefore, visitors are encouraged to discover the changes themselves, being taken through the collection where 180 pieces of graphics, sculpture and painting, created by Alexandre Benois, Nikolai Rerikh, Mikhail Vrubel, Natalia Goncharova, and many more, are displayed.

There are many reasons for what makes this exhibition interesting. Firstly, it is an opportunity to evaluate collections that Baltic museums own. In this all-Baltic project seven collections are presented, and they come from the Art Museum of Estonia, the Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga’s Museum of Literature and Music, M. K. Ciurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, the Vilnius Museum of Theater, Music and Film, the Lithuanian Art Museum and the Tartu Museum of Art in Estonia. Thus, visitors get a unique insight to the Russian Silver Age from the Baltic perspective that also lets them measure the possible level of influence, left by the Silver Age on Baltic art.

Secondly, the exhibition demonstrates the peculiar landscape of Russian art, and that takes one further than a simple awareness of historical processes of the era. It follows the people once again. The Silver Age portrays the longing for something different, yet embodied in the perception that has already been there. The visitors are expected to rip the meanings out from the exhibited items and look at them as if they have been placed there to be translated, not hidden for good. As the curator Rudzite remarks, “It has become possible to reveal the diversity of the Silver Age in a wide spectrum of phenomena,” therefore the visitor needs to read the painting or sculpture carefully to fully understand it. Still, colors, environments, moods and forms are there to help anybody who wants to find the encoded message or disappear in the depth of the meanings to comprehend how they can be applied today.

The target audience for the exhibition is clearly admirers of art. However, the exhibition is not only about art, but about the period of Russian history as well, where new, creative movements and social thought have been established, hence the individuals, who are interested in the development of intellectual debate within society, are also welcome. Though it has to be kept in mind that this is a journey that meanders and always adds something new. Like the Silver Age itself has done before, nowadays’ understanding does it today, allowing art to follow the people once more.

The exhibition is open till Jan. 20. For more information visit