Beautiful Baroque architecture, narrow Old Town streets and centuries-old history are not the only things Vilnius is famous for. Vilnius is also renowned for its modern urban architecture, contemporary cultural scene and world-class talents. Given this, it is worth taking a more observant walk through the city’s streets to discover some of its greatest modern art treasures, familiarise yourself with Lithuanian and global art trends of, find like-minded people to have a good time with, and get inspired by new ideas. This guide offers a glimpse into Vilnius’ most beloved modern places of art and will also acquaint you with some of the more unconventional places. Where are you going today?
This unique free open-air art gallery has helped revive a previously abandoned urban area. Open Gallery’s industrial environment exhibits work by both Lithuanian and foreign artists: murals on factory walls, installations, sculptures, performances, and non-commercial films are all presented in a new way. With urban culture on full display, the industrial image of Vilnius is being revived. Art is everywhere; from the rooftops to the dungeons – the factory has become a cultural centre of gravity for residents and tourists alike. Open Gallery is open to all; non-traditional excursions are held here, light installations are both functional and complimentary, and rooftops are used as platforms for exposures. Permanent exhibitions are interspersed with works of street artists and installations. The LOFTAS art gallery and its environment are filled with the latest works of renowned artists, giving Lithuania’s capital an unprecedented place in which to reveal itself.
A special place for the study of Litvak heritage with more than 100 works gifted by Samuel Bak, who lived in Lithuania in his earlier years. The exposition also features the 19th century book of the Vilnius Jewish community, which the now 85 year-old Bak painted while living in the Vilnius ghetto. The world-renowned artist decided to found this museum named after himself in his native Vilnius. For 70 years, the creative path of Samuel Bak involved a kind of character language and style called allegorical realism. In the paintings you can see parts of Vilnius that were important to the artist and everyday life in the ghetto. The video guide provides a good understanding of the famous artist’s work, which is full of metaphors, and you can also read the artist’s biography. There is an educational workshop about the artist and the heritage of Jews in Vilnius for adults and children. The museum won the audience award at the Tendencijos 2018 competition in the public interior category.
The MO Museum is the city’s newest museum, having over 4,500 works of contemporary Lithuanian artists from 1960 to the present. This vibrant and active cultural environment, which invites visitors to discover the work of 200+ Lithuanian artists, is a gift to the city from patrons of the arts Danguolė and Viktoras Butkus. The museum offers a great opportunity to get to know Lithuanian art in a modern setting. The MO museum is also one of the city’s most ambitious contemporary architectural projects. Designed by the architect Danielis Libeskindas, the museum is itself a work of art. It invites people to come together and spend time surrounded by art, to feel art from the inside. The sculptural garden, with terraces uniting public spaces, creates a diverse and inviting environment. The ensemble promotes the idea of meaningful leisure and gathers an active society of art lovers. The museum is full of space for communication, where you can feel like a part of the art. There is also a library and a reading room, a shop and a café. Educational events, regular film sessions and discussions are also held here.
The largest contemporary art centre in the Baltic countries, the CAC stimulates the development of modern Lithuanian art and integration into the global context, presents new modern art trends to society, initiates new projects, and hosts travelling exhibitions. This modernist building hosts the latest and most relevant art and retrospective exhibitions of art, music, dance, fashion, animation and cinema of the 20th and 21st centuries. It is also home to the fluxus office of Mačiūnas, a cinema that devotes itself to the search of new types of self-expression in the medium, and an open informal reading room. Recently, the International Art Triennial of the Baltic countries, an event uniting contemporary creators from the Baltic countries, was hosted here. Each day of the event saw over 50,000 people visit the Contemporary Art Centre. The centre remains a special attraction centre, with new ideas from artists, curators and other participants of the process in the contemporary art world conceived and embodied here.
When designing this modern art centre, architect Vytautas Čekanauskas wanted to create a sculpture park from the very beginning. The open-air garden unites spatial initiatives of artists, highlighting the integrity and completeness of the architectural ensemble – a valuable heritage site. Sculptures by artists Antanas Gerlikas, Donatas Jankauskas, Žilvinas Landzbergis, Mindaugas Navakas and Pakui Hardware are currently being exhibited here. The park also hosts events and film screenings in the summer.
The largest private gallery in Lithuania presents diverse and modern art in its own way, and does not limit itself to one specific medium. The gallery hosts exhibitions of paintings, photographs, video and audio art, and even some concerts. If arranged in advance, visitors can take a guided tour of the exhibitions. The gallery represents the interests of artists from the Baltic countries on the international art scene.
The gallery, located at a busy intersection, has changed many times in the last 50 years, but one thing has survived; the works of Lithuanian artists. In this gallery with deep traditions, you can view artist and thematic exhibitions, and even purchase your favourite work.
The gallery collaborates with well-known conceptual sculptors and jewellers. Much attention is paid to the presentation of creative studies of promising young artists. Informal meetings with artists, as well as lectures and creative workshops are held here. International exhibition exchange projects serve to broaden the understanding of contemporary art and invite visitors to look deeper into the expansive world of art.
The Academy of Arts’ Vilnius Museum exhibition hall is where students, graduates, teacher exhibitions, creative workshops and conferences often find shelter. Experimental winds are constantly raging here: works from participants in the ‘Prize for a Young Artist’ and ‘Prize for a Young Designer’ contests are exhibited here, performances are held, and young foreign artists are invited to practice their crafts and exhibit their works.
Poet Adomas Mickevičius used to live at the beginning of what is now commonly known as Literature Street. Today, some 200 works of Lithuanian and foreign artists adorn the walls and pay homage to Lithuania’s literary pioneers. The effigies are made of metal, wood, glass and other materials: each one a gift to a literary master, chosen by the artists themselves. Today Literature Street is one of the most delightful city streets, becoming an unconventional gallery, the appearance of which changes several times a day.
A community of modern art lovers that serves as a platform for experimental artists and audience interactions. The space is also home to the editorial offices of Artnews.lt and Echo Gone Wrong; exhibitions of young Lithuanian and foreign artists; and group explorations into the challenges of contemporary life and other philosophical topics.
Inspired by the unique spirit of Užupis, the Art Incubator is the first of its kind in the Baltic States, inviting artists and visitors to engage in dialogue focused on art. A creative revolution is underway in this house and its adjacent garden by the Vilnelė River, with artists from around the world working here and community life in full swing. Modern works are born in this informal setting, and the garden, which is decorated with installations and sculptures, is itself an open-air gallery.
Užupis has the third-largest collection of Fluxus pieces – an artistic movement that emphasises the artistic process over a finished product. In addition to sharing artwork by Jurgis Mačiūnas and Jonas Mekas, the exhibition also introduces new creators of cinema, video and computer art. This is a centre where young artists find a place for themselves; the art here is living, created now, and might someday be considered avant-garde.
One of the most significant private art collections in Lithuania is home to the largest collection of paintings about Vilnius, as well as sculptures, old maps of GDL and Poland, historical graphic works, and one of the first books published in Lithuanian – Postilė by Jonas Bretkūnas. The centre, founded by Rolandas Valiūnas, is dedicated to Lithuanian heritage and introduces the country’s history through the prism of art. Visits must be arranged in advance.
The first multifunctional centre of culture and arts opened after the restoration of Lithuanian independence, and the largest art gallery revealing the links of Lithuanian art with the culture of other countries and nurturing a culture of understanding visual art. Built in 1980 by Lithuanian architects Gediminas Baravykas and Vytautas Vielius, the National Art Gallery has since been renovated. Today, it is an excellent example of late Lithuanian modernist architecture. The permanent exhibition presents contemporary Lithuanian art of the 20th and 21st centuries, including sculptures, drawings, photographs, objects, installations, and video art. This is an environment for active communication; viewers get acquainted with the permanent exhibitions, participate in cultural events, attend lectures and participate in educational programmes. It has hosted more than 46,000 exhibits, serves as the largest information archive of Lithuanian artists from the 20th and 21st centuries, and has a library with a reading room. The educational centre holds art classes, guided tours, lectures, and meetings with Lithuanian and foreign artists.
This is a collaborative environment where unique art laboratories and open lectures, non-traditional contemporary art exhibitions, as well as video and films are shown. There are art projects and artists from around the world, and the centre’s reading room is home to over 200 books on contemporary art.