The Lithuanian National Museum of Art dedicates an exhibition and a scientific conference celebrating the 700th anniversary of Vilnius

  • 2023-10-19

The Lithuanian National Museum of Art continues the celebrations of the 700th anniversary of Vilnius. At 6 pm Wednesday, 25 October, the Vilnius Picture Gallery of the LNMA opens an exhibition A Foreigner Turned Native: The Multifaced Artistic Vilnius. The exhibition is accompanied by a scientific conference taking place on 26 – 27 October. 

The exhibition and the conference propose that we perceive the notable letters by Gediminas as a cultural key, which unlocked the lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the artists and craftsmen from other countries. The arrivals from Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Netherlands and other countries contributed, over different periods of time, to the shaping of the visual culture of Vilnius, while the merger of the local and foreign experiences introduced strong and distinct colours into it. 

The anniversary of 700 years is an auspicious occasion to reconceive Vilnius as a space of inspiration, created by the Lithuanian – and other European – architects, artists, craftsmen, academics, who in their own turn, drew inspiration from the same city.  

‘I am happy that the Lithuanian National Museum of Art invites not only to see the creative legacy inspired by Vilnius, but provides an opportunity to discuss it at an international conference’, says Dr Arūnas Gelūnas, director of the LNMA. 

‘I am sure that quite a few visitors will find this exhibition a veritable surprise, as even the curating team was amazed many times while putting it together. These plentiful different items have incredible stories to tell, from coins in the size of a finger nail to several-hundred-kilogram bell, they invite to take an unorthodox look also at the well-familiar artefacts. We would not have had these stories, had not Vilnius been a welcoming place for free and talented people. It is symbolical and right that the accompanying conference on the Lithuanian capital will also include scholars from foreign countries,’ relates Dr Aistė Bimbirytė, director of the Vilnius Picture Gallery of the LNMA. 

The merits of 16th – 19th – century foreigners to Vilnius’ culture: the artworks and the curbing of Russification 

Vilnius always attracted foreign merchants, craftsmen and artists. The goldsmiths of the Ruler’s court and the skilled craftsmen from Vilnius Mint, the painters, architects and sculptors, who worked on the palaces of the grand dukes and the churches funded by them, the creative gatherings and professors of Vilnius University shaped the capital of Lithuania alongside with the residents of Vilnius. Over 130 exhibits from the 16th through the 1st half of the 19th centuries will introduce the names of these creators and their merits to the culture of Vilnius. 

‘We often hear of Vilnius as a tolerant and multinational town from the olden days till our times, but it is less seldom that we stop to contemplate who these people were, what stories they lived and what they bequeathed to the city. This exhibition offers a good opportunity to encounter the creatives from outside Lithuania, whom we keep taking for ‘foreigners’ and to start perceiving them as ‘our own people’, reflect the curators of the exhibition  Joana Vitkutė and Gabija Kasparavičiūtė-Kaminskienė.  

It was back in the end of the 15th century when a group of talented goldsmiths from Poland and Germany arrived into town and founded in Vilnius its first goldsmiths’ workshop. Many an experienced masters arrived into the capital on invitation by the Grand Duke of Lithuania. During the times of the last Jagiellonians, Italian names were frequently echoing in Vilnius: Giovanni Maria Padovano, Pietro Platina, Rocco Marconi are just some of them. 

The fashions of the Grand Duke’s court and the craftsmen creating therein were, in turn, inherited by the nobility. Over the course of time, the noblemen started attracting foreigners on their own and entrusting them with their visions. Thus, for example, the Pacas and the Sapieha families shaped a distinct, new and original artistic taste manifested in the 17th century Baroque palaces, city and suburban residences, the churches and monastic buildings. 

In the early 18th century, the multinational capital received masters from Silesia, Warmia, Bavaria, and Königsberg.  

The occupation by the Russian empire following the fall of the Republic of The Two Nations was a difficult existential period for the country. The shining light of these times was Vilnius University. Thanks to the responsible and farsighted people, who built the university, the Russification of the country was stalled and the European scholarly culture upheld. 

Scientific conference: from the masters of the Palace of the Grand Dukes to 19th-century guitarist  

The exhibition A Foreigner Turned Native: The Multifaced Artistic Vilnius will be accompanied by a two-day scientific conference on 26 – 27 October held at the Vilnius Picture Gallery of the LNMA. The conference will discuss dilemmas of integration of the creatives and their legacy in Vilnius and abroad.  

The conference will be held in Lithuanian and English and consist of three sessions, Foreign Creators who Worked in Vilnius, Vilnius Residents who Created Abroad, and Own Versus Foreign: Dilemmas of Foreign Legacy and Integration.  

The participants of the conference from the Lithuanian, Polish, Bulgarian, Hungarian art and science institutions will discuss the personalities of the masters who worked at the Palace of the Grand Dukes; the patronage of the nobility, the activity of the artists who created in Vilnius, their cultural bonds and influences. Presentations will be dedicated to Dr Jonas Basanavičius, to the guitarist of the mid-19th century Marek Konrad Sokołowski, to artist Michał Elwiro Andriolli, to Vilnius botanist Jakubas Movšovičius, and other creative personalities of Vilnius. 

For a full programme of the conference please go to: 

Organizing committee of the conference:  Dr Algė Andriulytė, Dr Aistė Bimbirytė, Dr Auksė Kaladžinskaitė-Jocienė, Dr Aistė Paliušytė-Lugovojienė, Dr Birutė Rūta Vitkauskienė

The exhibition A Foreigner Turned Native: The Multifaced Artistic Vilnius at the Vilnius Picture Gallery (Didžioji St 4, Vilnius) of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art opens at 6 pm 25 October, and will be on through 21 April 2024. 

Exhibition curators: Dr Aistė Bimbirytė, Gabija Kasparavičiutė-Kaminskienė, Joana Vitkutė

Exhibition coordinators:  Karolina Kupstaitė

Scientific consultants: Dr Rūta Birutė Vitkauskienė, Dr Aistė Paliušytė-Lugojovienė, Dr Auksė Kaladžinskaitė-Jocienė

Exhibition architecture: MOA

Exhibition design: Jonė Miškinytė

Project financed by: Chancellor of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania 

Information partners: LRT Plius, Vilnius 700

Partners: National Museum of Lithuania, M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, Palanga Amber Museum, Clock and Watch Museum, the National Museum the Palace of the Grand Dukes, Samogitian Museum Alka, the Church Heritage Museum, Merkinė Regional Museum, Alytus Museum of Ethnography, Lithuanian State Historical Archives, Library of Vilnius University, Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, National Museum in Krakow, Dr Kristina Sabaliauskaitė, duke Maciej Radziwiłł

Information provided by: Dr Aistė Bimbirytė, director of the Vilnius Picture Gallery of the LNMA, phone +370 614 86648, e-mail [email protected]

Indrė Polimaitienė, co-ordinator of Communication and Marketing Department of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art, by phone +3705 262 1883 or e-mail [email protected] 

The Lithuanian National Museum of Art is one of the largest national art museums in Lithuania with the aim of building, safekeeping, researching, conserving, restoring, curating and exhibiting the collections of the arts and cultural artefacts of national significance at its nine divisions in Vilnius, Klaipėda, Palanga, and Juodkrantė.