Thursday 29 December 2011

I. (Museums. Lithuania. Žilinskas) Soothingly unchanged

Museums in Lithuania never fail to amuse me, surprise me, excite me. Visiting them offers a refreshingly archaic experience. The time flows slower there. The word progress does not have an exclamation mark at the end of it.
Nostalgia lives there.

I had not been to M. Žilinskas Art Gallery (unreadable webpage) in Kaunas for a about 20 years. Until yesterday.

So what had changed in that time, I wondered, as I climbed the stairs (passing the giant sculpture of a naked man which has been causing endless complaints since 1989 from the prudent ladies and gentelmen of Kaunas).

The power of a bare willy! Petras Mazuras managed to produce a sculpture that has be causing discontent among prudent Lithuanians for over 20 years now. No need for Salman Rushdie here.

The answer is - I don’t know what had changed, if anything.

The building is a good example of grandiose Soviet architecture. It still maintains most (if not all) original features, including crouching toilets and a room Nr 428 accessed from the ladies lavatories. I am assuming that the room is the office/storage for the cleaning lady and it is expected that a lady (not a gent) will be cleaning the toilets.

Original toilet from 1989. Most certainly adds to the charm and the atmosphere of the gallery.

There are clear signs ekspozicija, taking you to the exact place where you should be starting. The rooms are minded by a selection of sombre looking old women, who’s watchful eye will prevent you from touching the glass  or  - God forbid! - anything else.

The arrangement of the objects follows a rather mysterious sequence. I am sure they are expertly arranged. (It is not them, it is me) There is also a noticeable lack of information about the artefacts. Most of the vitrines are titled XIXc Europe. Or XIXc Russia, from Xyz collection. Am I that interested in who owned the object previously? Or am I more interested in what the object is?  A lot of paintings are disastrously lit, with frames casting shadows over the work.

How not to light the paintings.

The gallery also hosts a special exhibition Mirábile Visu / Nuostabu matyti for the 90th aniversary of M.K.Čiurlionis museum. Some rooms are filled with artworks that the museum had acquired over specific decades. Result? The rooms look like a cacophonous selection of art with a number of surprisingly modern juxtapositions: a huge classical painting along a selection of round 50's pots and opposite a traditional textile. There is certainly something something in it.

Part II.

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