After an extensive restoration and reconstruction, the Latvian National Museum of Art is opened to visitors since May 4 2016. Everyone is invited!
The opening of the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMA) was an outstanding event of national importance. After the reconstruction, the museum is entirely renovated, restored and enlarged. A modern and accessible infrastructure and environment for visitors is created with innovative services for public learning and recreation following the visitor’s needs and interests. In its first year of opening, the museum plans to welcome more than 100 000 visitors. At the moment, 30% of the museum visitors are tourists. Museum is also very popular for families and school children due to the fact that museum offers special, democratic prices for families and pupils.
Shortly after opening, museum received The Annual Latvian Architecture Award Grand Prix 2016. “The enlarged, old building is made modern with revival of forgotten elements and at the same time retaining its historical kernel. The use of the space in attic and technical cellar is not only functional and pragmatic, but symbolic as well, accentuating the cultural continuity what is particularly important to the museum. The use of architectonic materials is very well-considered and matched with building – in indirect, nuanced manner it relates to not only the existing aesthetics but also to Northern European traditions of using glass, wood and stone, with all the history and memories contained,” the international jury reasoned directing the Latvian National Museum of Art for the highest award.
Starting from May 4, 2016, the Latvian National Museum of Art is opened to the public six days a week – on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 to 18:00, on Fridays from 10:00 to 20:00, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 to 17:00. Every last Sunday of the month visitors are able to visit museum’s permanent display free of charge. Museum is closed on Mondays.
Visitors are welcome to appreciate the new permanent display Latvian Art. 19th–20th Century (historic building, 2nd and 3rd floor) and newest exhibitions.
NEW PERMANENT DISPLAY
The new permanent display Latvian art. 19th – 20th Century for the first time covers two centuries of the evolution of art in Latvia. The main objective was to create a visual, emotional story of Latvian art development and its social, geopolitical and historical context. In the display, the most important authors and art works from each period are selected.
It is modern and visitor friendly display, arranged chronologically by the principle of stylistic and narrative forms. A novelty in the display are the artworks from the time period 1945–2000, covering the art that has been created while Latvia was under the Soviet occupation and in the first decade of independence in 1990’s. In addition to traditional art forms – painting, sculpture and graphic art – also art works of the photo, installation and video are exhibited.
Display begins with an insight in Baltic German art scene in the 19th Century in the territory of present-day Latvia. It continues with a significant key moment in Latvian art development in the turn of the centuries – the birth of a conscious national art school. The first Latvian painters (trained at the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Art) supplemented their Academic Realism experience with influences of Impressionism and other movements in Europe. The key figures from this period are Vilhelms Purvītis (1872–1945), Janis Rozentāls (1866–1916) and Johans Valters (1869–1932).
Outstanding episode in Latvian art is the period of Classical Modernism. After the founding of the independent national state (1918), artists loyal to the Parisian school continued to introduce contemporary innovations recreating impressions of the movement of classical modernism – Expressionism, Fauvism and Cubism. Artists as Jāzeps Grosvalds (1891–1920), Jēkabs Kazaks (1895–1920), Niklāvs Strunke (1894–1966), Romans Suta (1896–1944), Aleksandra Beļcova (1892–1981), Ģederts Eliass (1887–1975) are among the most important ones.
After the First World War, some of the Latvian artists became involved in developing new art movements in Soviet Russia. Today they are known in the world as significant masters of the Russian Avant-garde. The most famous one is Gustavs Klucis (1895–1938).
The part of the permanent display with the art works from the second half of the 20th century begins with the introduction of Socialist Realism – the depiction of subjects commensurate with communist ideology. In 1956, after Stalin’s cult of personality, Socialist Modernism became current. It featured expressive and abstract forms that were permitted to appear within the bounds of themes acceptable to socialism. As an anti-modernist reaction, the 1970s saw the blossoming of Socialist Post-Modernism – the return to the mimetic image but rejecting ideological themes and developing independent concepts and subjective motifs. The artists which can be highlighted form this period are Jānis Pauļuks (1906–1984), Boriss Bērziņš (1930–2002), Džemma Skulme (1925), Edgars Iltners (1925–1983), Ojārs Ābols (1922–1983), Maija Tabaka (1939).
In the second half of the 1980s Latvian art was in the avant-garde of political events. The young generation artists of this age were known as trespassers. A powerful wave of Neo-Expressionism depicts metaphors of the collapsing Soviet empire and the drama of a passing age. Conceptualists interpreted the age more rationally. In the 90s painters turned to a taboo of the Soviet years – Abstract art. There were radical changes in the hierarchy of art media; installations, objects and performances dominated. As the most important artists of this period we can mention Ilmārs Blumbergs (1943–2016), Aija Zariņa (1954), Kristaps Ģelzis (1962) and Andris Breže (1958).
The information about the display is accessible in different cognitive levels. The artworks have a central role in the display but it is complemented with a multimedia infrastructure to extend the visitor’s experience.
In the new permanent display around 500 art works from the museum’s collection are set. It is housed in the 2nd and 3rd floor of museum’s historic building.
During the reconstruction along with the reopening the museum has gone through a rebranding process and acquired a new visual identity. The new brand strategy core values are accessibility, openness and audience involvement in making a common experience. The author of the new design is the graphic artist Maija Rozenfelde.
In the core of the new visual identity is the process of illumination, a play with the hidden and the obvious. Graphically laconic museum’s logo consists of “MM” letter code which is a gradually illuminated outline of the letters, pointing to the game the hidden, undiscovered and unseen to become uncovered, brought to light and disclosed. That includes the multidimensional nature of art itself, and the secretive nature of the museum institution: things and processes that are visible to the visitors and those that remain behind the scenes. The sign demonstrates both subtlety and stability of the museum, a modern approach playing with a classic image of the letters.