By marking a hundred years from Latvia, on February 24, 2019, the Latvian National Art Museum (LNMM) will see the Portrait exhibition in Latvia. 20th Century Facial expressions. The project will take place at the same time in three LNMM main buildings, the Arsenāls exhibition hall and Romana Suta and Alexander Belcova Museum. The independent speaker is the curator of this exhibition, Gintu Gerhardi-Upenieci, head of the Department of Fine Arts of the Latvian National Visual Art Museum.
– While waiting for a hundred years from Latvia, LNMM held several exhibitions for a long time, but why was the latter dedicated to portraits? What is a conceptual position is that man is the center of statehood, because there is already another, if possible, to be the main object, and the closing exhibition may have been devoted, for example, to the landscape.
– There may be landscapes, quiet environments and such, but the beginning of this exhibition can be found at the Rundale Palace Museum. This exhibition is indirectly an epilogue and, at the same time, a continuation of the portrait art trilogy at the Rundale Palace, where three exhibitions of 17th, 18th and 19th portraits – were held in 1986, 1997 and 2008 in a row. . There was an interval of 11 years between them, when serious scientific work was carried out. When an exhibition on 19th-century portraits in Latvia was held, Imants Lancmanis said that the relay was handed over to us, because 20th century works were stored directly by LNMM. Since then, many exhibitions have been planned and organized, and we always remember the idea of a portrait exhibition, however, it was delayed all the time. This is the background of this exhibition. It is also important that the 100-year project also has wider financial opportunities.
If only 35 works were represented in the 17th century, this time, of course, it was necessary to choose a much larger work. In the 19th century, the situation was favorable for the portrait genre, and the works created were essentially conscious, but in the 20th century portraits were created in enormous numbers, they were found both in museum collections and in private collections and in archives personal, some of which were destroyed during the war, carried away. extinct or cannot be cured. Many artists have made portraits in various techniques, but not all of them can be described as the masters of this genre. At the same time, the exhibition raises questions about the status of the portrait genre in the 20th century and its relevance to today.
– Large volumes also come out with the exhibition.
– It is very important that the Neputns publishing company promises to make such expenses, because many researchers must collect together research papers. Professor Eduard Kļaviņš focused on portrait and development stylistics in the early 20th century, while the Bankovskist Peteris – into the second half of the 20th century. Dace Lamberga wrote about the artist's self portrait. At one time, Imants Lancmanis wrote about portraits lost in the 19th century, and also the 20th century was not grateful for works of art, on the contrary – many have not survived. The specialist for the missing portrait is Janis Kalnačs, who has published a book about robbery. The history and situation of Latvia in the 20th century has been such that we cannot collect, collect and store, but we have taken many wars, but not only wars, even cunning, looting apartments … Video presentations presented at the exhibition – various testimonies archives or in the media, which have captured the existence of works that are no longer available. For example, the portrait of Karl Ulmanis during the Soviet period was kept secret, destroyed, painted … However, all kinds of miracles had occurred, because from time to time there were also several jobs. It is also worthy of being called Inta Pujte and Laima Slava – they wrote about photographs in the first and second half of the 20th century respectively.
– Why did you invite Marija Berzins to write an essay for this exhibition?
– We have been able to go to the archive, look for quotes, author's descriptions, but we think this exhibition will be better for contemporary literature. Marcel Prusts has made portraits of literature devoted to art at one time. Essays by Maris Berzins Facial expressions specifically reveal the essence of portraits through one's experience – celebrities, creative personalities or simple representatives of Latvians. The author observes age and we, both from a closer and more distant perspective, have a philosophical view on us in the 20th century.
Both the essay and the exhibition as a whole ask the question – do facial expressions show essence? For example, in many works created in the Soviet Union, there were smiling faces that did not express both human nature and time. And this is one paradox and tragedy at the same time – we live a double life.
– Why did the exhibition, which began in 1900, did not end at the end of the 20th century?
– One argument – the exhibition, if it can be said, was intended to start the beginning of the 20th century, the idea of cup relay, which would be displayed even before the proclamation of the Latvian state. In addition, this is an important period in Latvian art – the Art Museum was built, the first Latvian professional artists began to work, and Riga was also a completely different city until the First World War. In theory, the exhibition was scheduled to close in 2000, but in the 1990s it was in a portrait … Chronologically, the exhibition had to be completed, but there was no sense of completion, because in the Soviet era the portrait was a particular task, they had lost tension , and the exhibition does not seem to have an end … We expanded the exhibition for a decade already in the 21st century, where the portrait was not lost, only descended from podides, varied in various ways, interesting …
– Even though the exhibition is very productive, it cannot be difficult to choose works. What are the priorities – the quality of work, the author of the work, the object displayed?
– This is really a big problem – a lot of work. The question, of course, is about choice, and it is done by people who are responsible for storing collections at the Latvian National Art Museum. Three important things. First of all, the artist is important because there are painters and artists who have never been like Wilhelm Purvitis. However, not only is the artistic quality of the portrait important, for example, in the history museum there is also a collection of paintings and graphic arts, and no matter whether they are created by artist painters, the important personality represented in history is important. We do not exclude the self and wife portrait of the artist, some people in the community. The third important argument is the era of certain works.
Although many works, although representing a certain period, over time. For example, works created by Jānis Pauļuka in the middle of the last century were not socialist works, they, if one could say, outside of time, and at the same time created works that clearly characterized and represented a certain period – Stalinism, disbursement Khrushchev, that is, also at that time artists who were out of frame and really did not enter into the rules, but those who diligently fulfilled all orders, Lenin, Stalin … During the First World War, as well as in World War II, very it is impossible to see a portrait of what happened in real life – there is a familiar environment, closed from the outside world, silent and private, sort of distancing oneself from real situations, maybe running away, but that is understandable. On the other hand, if we look at works made in the 1990s, they are not only charming, but artists want to say something about the 90s, expressing their inner attitudes towards the particular person described.
This exhibition shows the 20th century as a century ago – as a time when the city was formed and formed, the Latvian state was lost and restored. It characterizes an era in which individuals, regardless of obstacles and conflicts, have invested their experience and strong intellectual and creative potential.
The points of exposure are ten chapters as references for significant periods in Latvian history and culture, which we use as keywords to explain certain work in the context of the times. The parts of the exhibition – the stages of one of the historical chains – are not limited to cuttings, but are only felt as punctuation, reference points during the time that form the background of the explanation of the exposition.