Welcome to the Latvian Contemporary Art Space!
As you know, there are many ways of defining space: as one of the basic forms of the existence of matter, as an area enclosed by physical planes or as a place where something is located or happening. It can be real, theoretical or merely a budding thought. In a way, the magazine’s platform fits all of the above. Thus, to the connoisseurs of art, the pages of this magazine become a kind of a temporary informative space for post-war and contemporary art: one of the many spaces that innovate to fill the void created by the lack of a XX century and contemporary art museum in our country.
It is no secret that contemporary art museums in other culture capitals of the world not only serve as the country’s business card but also create a cultural environment for building the nation’s identity and boosting its self- confidence. This makes the reluctance of Latvian authorities to move the creation of a XX century and contemporary art museum to the top of their agenda that much more unfathomable, as it robs the citizens of our country of the chance to fully explore the cultural and historical heritage of our people and understand its impact on the creation and development of our nation. As the collector of art Jānis Zuzāns harshly admitted in the interview to our magazine, the government has little to no understanding of the processes that secure the existence of a country, which results in a very nearsighted view on the positioning of our country in a global context. In our conversation, the prorector of the Latvian Art Academy and painter Andris Vītoliņš pointed out a significant fact: back when our politician Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics went to England to advocate for the formation of the Latvian country, Vilhelms Kārlis Purvītis assembled a portfolio of different artists as a gift for the British statesmen. It served as proof that there is a place called Latvia – a place with culture, values and something worth fighting for.
This very reason was behind the Art Needs Space movement, which above all else aims to create space for art in the minds of people. In this modern age of technology, few realise that art has the capacity to change how people perceive the world. British film director Peter Greenaway has admitted in a private conversation that art is all about painters. His argument was that painters are the best at seeing the bigger picture. It might be apt to add that painters not only see the bigger picture but are also the first to feel and react to the changes in the public space that their peers are yet unaware of. This is why art cannot be treated merely as historical heritage and stuff for the archives.
Contemporary art cannot be interpreted based on aesthetic criteria only, as it also addresses social anthropology issues.
Contemporary art cannot be interpreted based on aesthetic criteria only, as it also addresses social anthropology issues. Besides art, the country’s viability and development are also in need of a new, government- funded and protected space: a contemporary art centre for the endorsement, popularisation and conservation of new artistic values.
Fate has been kind to me: I am fortunate enough to have been born in a family where art was and still is an integral part of life. My parents took serious interest in painting and actively kept up with the trends of the art world. Artists were frequent guests at our home, which is probably what more or less influenced my sister’s decision to become a painter too. Since early childhood, one of the artists to leave a strong impression on me has been painter Ieva Iltnere.
Her art speaks to me with its clean, sensual and utterly refined aesthetics. Her individual style is unmistakable, and yet one of its defining features is fearless experimentation. I admire Ieva Iltnere not only as a very perceptive and talented artist, but also as a person. Her charm and soulfulness have largely contributed to my own perception of femininity as a conscious expression of inner strength. So it is my pleasure to bring this issue of the magazine to you featuring an interview with this talented artist, who plays such a significant role in the contemporary art scene.
Resuming my train of thought, I would like to point out that my family has always seen delving into art as an opportunity for self-improvement, both intellectual and mental. Art has helped me ask some vital questions to myself, leading me not only on a search, but also to answers. Many of these questions were related to understanding the post-war period events in my country: the time when my parents
lived and the time when I was born. It is the time stored in our family albums: the identity code of my family and I. In a way, I see the fact that the art created during this historically significant period is still not available for public viewing as a kind of a national crime. Now that I have a child of my own, this injustice seems particularly glaring. I want him to see and understand the time we lived and grew up in. Because it wasn’t easy. It is important for today’s generation to understand the life conditions that defined our parents and the processes that influenced our artists. It is our shared past, a part of all of us. This is why I feel so strongly about the creation of a XX century and contemporary art museum. It is not just a whim to have someplace for viewing pictures.
It is an opportunity for our nation to look back at what we have experienced and understand our past so we could use this newfound understanding to grow both as individuals and as a nation – a nation that is in touch with its identity and unique place in the global culture space.
Fitting right into this context is the interview with the founder and commissioner of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art Agniya Mirgorodskaya, who has collaborated with the internationally renowned art curator Katerina Gregos to create a new global platform for Baltic and foreign artists with the purpose of promoting the development of contemporary art and supporting regional education. When discussing her creative experiences, Agniya names Kaspars Vanags’ exhibition You Have 1243 New Messages as one of the highlights of the past few years. Agnese Pundiņa’s article on Latvian nonconformist art can be found within the pages of this very same magazine.
We are also pleased to bring you an interview with the Director of the Latvian National Museum of Art Māra Lāce, who can undeniably be called not only one of the biggest authorities in the Latvian art scene, but also a remarkable and inspiring person, whose name has already gone down in Baltic art history. An essential part of her work is promoting Latvian contemporary art and supporting the only contemporary visual arts award in Latvia, the Purvītis Prize.
In this issue, we offer a glimpse of the Latvian exposition at the 58th Venice Art Biennale (the idea behind its concept and implementation thereof) and some of the most prominent exhibition halls and galleries in Latvia. We are also confident that our readers will enjoy the interviews with the art historian, painter and long-term Director of Rundāle Palace Imants Lancmanis and the photographer Andrejs Strokins.
At the end of our symbolic art space, we offer for viewing reproductions of excellent artworks that our interviewees have chosen as the most notable pieces of Latvian post-war or contemporary art.
Before saying goodbye, I would like to wish you to always find space for art in your mind.
See you soon!
L’Officiel ART Editor-in-Chief
|Ieva Iltnere | Stranger’s comfort
Māra Lāce | You can’t escape from yourself
Purvītis Prize | Sea of Living Memories
Imants Lancmanis | Self-balancing
Jānis Zuzāns | Art ought to be shown
Art Needs Space | From Containers to a Museum
Daiga Grantiņa | The show must go on
Zane Čulkstēna | Very ambitious and purposeful – could it describe kim?
Andris Vītoliņš | The Bigger Picture
Agnija Mirgorodskaya | For Art’s Sake
Insider’s guide to Riga | Welcome by Live Riga!
Andrejs Strokins | Backstage of a fading era
Nonconformist Art | The box on the third shelf second to the left
Art space Riga | Art galleries
“We express our sincere gratitude to “Live Riga” for supporting this magazine! We appreciate the long-term and purposeful contribution of “Live Riga” providing the opportunity for the guests visiting our city to experience the best of what the Capital of Baltic Culture can offer. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide a deeper insight into current contemporary art and culture while being aware that in one edition of the magazine we can cover only a small part of what Riga can offer to any interested art lover.
We wish the guests of our capital to enjoy with their hearts the wide and diverse offer of cultural life, and feel the intangible, yet so present, the artistic aura that, like a legendary mermaid, tempts to return to this city again and again.”