True Lithuania

Top 10 locations to see Art in Lithuania

The followers of some Lithuanian artists claim that they (especially M. K. Čiurlionis) lack a worldwide recognition solely because they are from Lithuania (the political reasons, e.g. foreign occupations, rendering the main Western markets inaccessible most of the time).

Decide for yourself if that is true by visiting local art museums and galleries. Moreover, check the elaborate Lithuanian folk and religious art which has received UNESCO recognition.

Here are 10 locations every fan of visual arts should check in Lithuania:

1. Try to understand why symbolist Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis is considered to be *the* Lithuanian painting genius by visiting a museum dedicated to his otherworldly works in Kaunas New Town.

2. Visit Saint Peter and Paul church (Antakalnis borough of Vilnius) which could just as well serve as a museum of white Baroque art with its ~2000 sculptures showing the entire variety of life here and hereafter. This is the pinnacle of the religious art that the wealthy noble families of 17th and 18th centuries used to pay for.

3. Witness the best repository of UNESCO-inscribed Lithuanian art of crosscrafting - the Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai. It is a holy place rather than a museum, meaning the crosses still serve their original purpose and provide quite an atmosphere for pilgrims and other visitors alike.

4. Have a somewhat encyclopedic look at Lithuanian 20th century art at the National Art Gallery (Vilnius Šnipiškės borough).

5. Enjoy a unique synthesis of a medieval building and 20th century optical art in Kazys Varnelis museum (Vilnius Old Town). Both a modern artist and an avid collector Lithuanian American Kazys Varnelis had to live outside his Soviet-occupied homeland, but returned after independence and bequeathed his works.

6. Enjoy the adorable colors of Vytautas Kasiulis art at a museum dedicated to him (Vilnius New Town). He was yet another Lithuanian emigrant painter.

7. Understand why Vytautas Kasiulis, Kazys Varnelis and many others had fled Soviet-occupied Lithuania by visiting Grūtas park (Druskininkai), a grand repository of demolished Soviet statues and other propaganda art that once stood all over the Lithuanian downtowns. The Lithuanian artists who haven't emigrated, been expelled or murdered by the Soviets were all forced to manufacture such Socialist-realist propaganda art, their creativity totally contrived by censorship and canons.

8. Be stunned by the hundreds of devil statuettes in the Devils museum in Kaunas. In Lithuanian folk tradition devil is treated quite differently from the Christian canon, being an "evil yet silly and sometimes compassionate" figure rather than a nearly omnipotent Evil force. The figurines have been collected by painter Antanas Žmuidzinavičius whose own works are also exhibited nearby.

9. Take a trip to the Museum of Archeology in Kernavė, where some of the earliest known Baltic artworks and jewelry is exhibited. Some of the modern Lithuanian jewelry and designer work now includes these prehistoric influences.

10. Explore the Mykolas Žilinskas art gallery, an all-encompassing look at the world art (from Egyptian mummies to 20th century). Largely donated by a private Lithuanian-American collector this is Lithuania's answer to Louvre and State Hermitage, however, only a few works here are truly world-class. Kaunas New Town.

Map of the top 10 Art locations in Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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