The building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Krišjāņa Valdemāra Street 10 is one of the most representative in the Park and Boulevard Circle area of Riga!

New permanent display

The new permanent display "Latvian art.19th -20th Century" for the first time will cover two centuries of the art development in Latvia. The main objective is to create a visual, emotional story of Latvian art development and its social, geopolitical and historical context. In the display, the most important authors and art works from each period will be selected.

It will be modern and visitor friendly display, arranged chronologically by the principle of stylistic and narrative forms. A novelty in the display will be the art works from the time period 1945-2000, covering the art that has been created while Latvia was under the Soviet occupation and in the first decade of independence in 1990’s. In addition to traditional art forms - painting, sculpture and graphic art - also art works of the photo, installation and video will be exhibited.

Display begins with an insight in Baltic German art scene in the 19th Century in the territory of present-day Latvia. It continues with a significant key moment in Latvian art development in the turn of the centuries – the birth of a conscious national art school. The first Latvian painters (trained at the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Art) supplemented their academic realism experience with influences of Impressionism and other movements in Europe. The key figures from this period are Vilhelms Purvītis (1872–1945), Janis Rozentāls (1866– 1916) and Johans Valters (1869-1932).

Outstanding episode in Latvian art is the period of Classical modernism. After the founding of the independent national state (1918), artists loyal to the Parisian school continued to introduce contemporary innovations recreating impressions of the movement of classical modernism – Expressionism, Fauvism and Cubism. Artists as Jāzeps Grosvalds (1891–1920), Jēkabs Kazaks (1895–1920), Niklāvs Strunke (1894–1966), Romans Suta (1896–1944), Aleksandra Beļcova (1892–1981), Ģederts Eliass (1887–1975) are among the most important ones.

After the First World War, some of the Latvian artists became involved in developing new art movements in Soviet Russia. Today they are known in the world as significant masters of the Russian avant-garde. The most famous one is Gustavs Klucis (1895–1938).

The part of the permanent display with the art works from the second half of the 20th century begins with the introduction of Socialist Realism – the depiction of subjects commensurate with communist ideology. In 1956, after Stalin’s cult of personality, Socialist Modernism became current. It featured expressive and abstract forms that were permitted to appear within the bounds of themes acceptable to socialism. As an anti-modernist reaction, the 1970s saw the blossoming of Socialist Post-Modernism – the return to the mimetic image but rejecting ideological themes and developing independent concepts and subjective motifs. The artists which can be highlighted form this period are Jānis Pauļuks (1906–1984), Boriss Bērziņš (1930 – 2002), Džemma Skulme (1925), Edgars Iltners (1925), Ojārs Ābols (1922– 1983) Maija Tabaka (1939).

In the second half of the 1980s Latvian art was in the avant-garde of political events. The young generation artists of this age were known as trespassers. A powerful wave of NeoExpressionism depicts metaphors of the collapsing Soviet empire and the drama of a passing age. Conceptualists interpreted the age more rationally. In the 90s painters turned to a taboo of the Soviet years – abstract art. There were radical changes in the hierarchy of art media; installations, objects and performances dominated. As the most important artists of this period we can mention Ilmārs Blumbergs (1943-2016), Aija Zariņa (1954), Kristaps Ģelzis (1962) and Andris Breže (1958).

The information about the display will be accessible in different cognitive levels. The art works will have a central role in the display but it will be complemented with a multimedia infrastructure to extend the visitor’s experience.

In the new permanent display around 500 art works from the museum’s collection will be set. It will be housed in the 2 nd and 3rd floor of museum's historic building.

Museum’s rebranding

During the reconstruction along with the reopening the museum has gone through a rebranding process and acquired a new visual identity. The new brand strategy core values are accessibility, openness and audience involvement in making a common experience. The author of the new design is the graphic artist Maija Rozenfelde.

In the core of the new visual identity is the process of illumination, a play with the hidden and the obvious. Graphically laconic museum’s logo consists of "MM" letter code which is a gradually illuminated outline of the letters, pointing to the game the hidden, undiscovered and unseen to become uncovered, brought to light and disclosed. That includes the multidimensional nature of art itself, and the secretive nature of the museum institution: things and processes that are visible to the visitors and those that remain behind the scenes. The sign demonstrates both subtlety and stability of the museum, a modern approach playing with a classic image of the letters.

Architecture and Reconstruction

The building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Krišjāņa Valdemāra Street 10 is one of the most representative in the Park and Boulevard Circle area of Riga. It was designed by the museum’s first director, the Baltic German architect and art historian Wilhelm Neumann (1849 – 1919) and built in 1905. Latvian National Museum of Art is the first building that has been built specially for the museum’s needs in the Baltics. The structure, as well as the parameters of the exhibition rooms, corresponded to the required standard for an art museum in that period of time. The building is an architectural landmark of national significance.

In 2010, the Riga City Council, the owner of the building, adopted the decision on the reconstruction and expansion of the building with the aim to create a modern museum infrastructure. National architectural monument - the Latvian National Museum of Art – had served to the public without major repairs for 107 years. Museum’s building was in critical condition.

On 25 May 2010 the Riga City Council Property Department launched an international architectural contest of the building reconstruction and extension. Overall, 28 architectural were presented. Lithuanian architects office "Processoffice" Vytautas Biekša (Vytautas Biekša) and "Andrius Skiezgelas Architecture" project with the slogan "UV 903" was selected as the best.

According to the unique architecture of Latvian National Museum of Art, its representative status and signifance to the Latvian cultural heritage, the museum's reconstruction strategy consisted of three elements: heritage, aesthetics and function. The project proposed to maintain the existing building capacity and authentic details; create explicit contemporary volumes with minimal design solutions in addition to the rooms and make the building’s functional strategy changes.

The reconstruction started on 12 of February 2013 and lasted till December 2016. For the first time in the museum’s history such a great reconstruction has been accomplished.

After reconstruction the museum is totally renovated and has gained more space for visitors comfort and unique museum visit’s experience, as well for the needs of museums basic functions. Now the museum has 7 floors in total, connected by elevator for visitors.

In the 1st floor of the historic building will be placed creative space for educational activities, museum’s cafe, shop and conference hall, in the 2nd and 3rd floors the permanent display. For the first time in the history of museum, the visitors will have an access to the museum's attic and cupola (area 598 m2) with renovated wooden roof constructions. As a special surprise for the visitors are two newly designed roof terraces with wonderful panoramic view to the city.

A significant benefit of the reconstruction is the new underground block (3545 m2) in two floors under the ground on the Esplanade park side. This space consists of the new exhibition halls (777 m2), new collections storage, restoration and technical rooms. Visitors will have the unique opportunity to take a look into the closed collection storages through the glass wall while going to the Great Exhibition Hall.

The square of the Esplanade park side at the museum’s building is planned as a place where people can gather for different events and the museum can exhibit larger objects of art. The square will also be used as the terrace of the museum’s cafe. At the center of the area is situated a 9x9 meter large amphitheatre with a glass floor. Through it visitors will be able to take a look in to the everyday life of the museum.

The reconstruction project is both symbolically and functionally opening the museum for public, making it more accessible and comfortable.

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J. Rozentāla laukums, 1
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