Exhibition ‘The Collectible Collector’

Artworks of Kazys Varnelis from private collections in Lithuania

  • 2023 05 17–2023 10 29
  • During museum working ]hours
  • Didžioji g. 26, Vilnius
  • Exhibition
  • Museum admission ticket

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Kazys Varnelis – most likely, the most famous creator of optical art in Lithuania – was not only an artist, but also an avid collector. In his House-Museum the exposition put together by the artist himself pointedly parallels his works and the pieces of his collection, this way creating a wider narrative about their cultural endurance and movement from owner to owner. K. Varnelis not only collected, but himself became a collectable artist. A share of his works circulates beyond the boundaries of his museum and is invisible to the public or is only accessible fragmentarily.

Architect Justinas Dūdėnas

How many and which of Kazys Varnelis’s works could be in private collections in Lithuania? Perhaps a collector who promised to sell a composition painted by the artist still has it? Maybe it is possible to find the early experiments of the artist in someone’s Kaunas home? Did the „Knot“ sold at the US auction actually end up in Lithuania?

The continuous asking of such questions as well as many others for a few years helped assemble the corpus of the exhibition. Having grasped the significant temporariness of private collections, it became apparent, that this aspect will become the starting point of the scenography of the works preserved in private homes for the exhibition in K. Varnelis House-Museum.

The early paintings are evidence of a gradual transition from classical compositions to historical subjects, they also obviously show the influence of Stasys Ušinskas, who taught the artist at Kaunas Art School, and even New Objectivity (In German: Neue Sachlichkeit). Additionally, large classical optical paintings from private collections are presented at the exhibition, constructing a contrasting dialogue with small works and pieces created in substantially different style. K. Varnelis’s compositions created in the 1980s are also on display in the museum. Most of the paintings are shown in the exhibition hall, some interpose into other spaces of the museum. They, as temporary guests of this place, are perfectly visible: special constructions conceived for the exhibition allowed to install them respectfully in the rooms and distinguish them from other works.

The exposition is supplemented by objects revealing the phenomenon of collecting, famous and yet unexplored routes of migration: sometimes complex and enigmatic, sometimes clear and defined, sometimes destined by anecdotal events.

Who knows, maybe whilst the exhibition is taking place, perchance yet unseen work of Varnelis or a piece considered lost, which is quietly hiding in someone’s home as a composition of an unknown artist, will reappear.

Exhibition Curator Gabrielė Paškevičiūtė.

The exhibition will take place in the Kazys Varnelis House-Museum (Didžioji str. 26, Vilnius) from the 17th of May to the 29th of October, 2023.

Curated by Gabrielė Paškevičiūtė
Architecture by Gabrielė Černiavskaja
Coordinated by Dr. Daiva Vaišnienė
Production coordinated by Donatas Beniulis
Graphic design by Jurga Juodytė
Restored by Julija Riškutė, Lina Bindokaitė
Translated by Skirmantė Cairns
Subtitles by Agnė Mackė
Consulted by Prof. Dr. Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Dr. Lina Michelkevičė
Communication by Santa Lingevičiūtė
Special thanks to Audrius Janulevičius, Ivan Sanchez Pinto, Dainius Sebeckis