May 5, 2017

The international contemporary art fair ArtVilnius’17 invited art lovers to the Artagonist art hotel in central Vilnius to share some of the news about the upcoming fair.

This year’s edition of ArtVilnius, which will run June 8 through 11 at Litexpo, will include 55 galleries and some 200 artists from 20 countries (from Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania to Belarus, Georgia, Russia, Italy and France). In addition to the main programme, where the galleries will showcase their offerings, the fair will present an expanded project zone featuring international art institutions and artists.

One and only

ArtVilnius’17 remains the only art fair in Eastern Europe, confirms the event’s director Diana Stomienė. “There have been several unsuccessful attempts to organize art fairs in neighbouring countries, but for now we are indeed the one and only. We tour vigorously other fairs (ArcoMadrir, Freize, to name but a few), we observe them and, using their example, we measure our own event against the highest standard,” says Ms. Stomienė, adding that a great number of different segments is what makes ArtVilnius’17 stand out. The main gallery programme is each year complemented with shows, collections, discussions, meetings and industry events.

“While putting together the gallery programme for ArtVilnius’17, I’ve noticed the changing approach of galleries. If, last year, institutional and young galleries focused on merely showing their pieces, this year their approach is completely different – they seek to sell,” says Ernestas Parulskis, art market expert and long-time member of ArtVilnius selection panel.

ArtVilnius director Diana Stomiene, head of communication Karolina Tomkeviciute together with Dr Irmantas Norkus, the Managing Partner of COBALT law firm, fair’s long-time Maecenas

International projects

ArtVilnius’17 is organizing a special project space which will take up 2,700 square metres at Hall 4 of Litexpo exposition centre. Lewben Art Foundation, set up by the fair’s exclusive partner Lewben Group, has been working with the organizers for four years and, for the 2017 edition, is bringing an exhibition dedicated to femininity, ‘All These Beautiful Ladies’.

“Over the last years, two girls have been born to the team of Lewben Art Foundation. This is what inspired the show’s curator, Francesca Ferrarini, to move away from the topical subject of feminism and look at other aspects of femininity. To underscore the international character of the exhibition, we will present nine contemporary artists from Lithuania and abroad,” Ugnė Bužinskaitė, the director of Lewben Art Foundation, said during the press conference, singling out, in particular, the Turner Prize-winning artist Helen Marten.

MOCAK Contemporary Art Museum in Krakow is returning to ArtVilnius for the second time. Curator Monika Kozioł will present 123 of the museum’s artists, all of whom have been incorporated into a smart technology-driven piece by the Polish artist Mariusz Tarkawian. Art and education centre Rupert is bringing artworks created specifically for the fair by its residents, all of which will be on sale. Estonia is a particularly active participant in ArtVilnius’17, bringing three contemporary art galleries and an installation by the Baltic Young Artist Award winner Juhan Soomets, presented by the Estonian contemporary art platform NOAR.

Focus on videoart and Jonas Mekas

Attendees of Tuesday’s press conference had the chance to see one of the artworks to be presented at this year’s fair. Running along office corridors and repeating lyrics of Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’, Julia Scher and her video piece gave a taste of an important feature at ArtVilnius’17, the Videonale festival. One of Europe’s oldest festivals of video and time-based arts, Videonale is returning to Vilnius with 13 video pieces selected from 2,339 applications.

“You will not convince me to grow old,” once said Jonas Mekas who is turning 95 this year. To mark the anniversary, the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center is organizing a number of events, including an exclusive screening of Mekas’ ‘Outtakes From the Life of a Happy Man’.

“We are participating in ArtVilnius for the fourth time and, although we do not sell anything, we are spreading the word about the Mekas centre and its collection. I class Mekas with young artists, his personality and his work never grows old,” said the centre’s director Gintaras Sodeika.

X-rated performances

“We are particularly proud of our annual exhibition of large-scale sculptures, installations and performances, ‘Path’, which this year attracted a record-setting number of applications, from 170 established and young artists. We selected 40 best artists from Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, Latvia and Ukraine,” said Sonata Baliuckaitė, ArtVilnius art project manager. This year’s ‘Path’ is sponsored by the guests of a charity ball organized in cooperation with Cobalt law firm, a Maecenas of ArtVilnius. Funds raised during the ball allowed to invite so many artists to take part in the exhibition.

‘Path’ will include ten performance pieces by the likes of Raul Rajangu (Estonia), Erik Alalooga (Estonia), Sarah Haddou (France) and Monika Dirsytė (Lithuania). Rajangu’s X-rated performance will feature naked bodies. Benas Šarka, an artist from Klaipėda, will present his performance ‘Atmata’ on the day of the fair’s opening, while Dirsytė’s piece will feature 20 performers every day.

ArtVilnius’17 will continue its tradition of awarding best galleries and artists. The best young artist will receive a monetary prize provided by the fair’s long-time Maecenas Cobalt law firm. Seventy young artists under 35 will participate this year, more than in any previous fair. “The art fair is getting younger, young artists can use the event as a launch pad to enter the Lithuanian and international art market. Selecting one young artist who is the best will be very difficult,” said Ms. Stomienė.

Visitors at ArtVilnius’17 will have a chance to select their own favourites and cast their votes for the best gallery and the best artist who will be awarded with monetary prizes provided by Volfas Engelman. The fair’s visitors will also benefit from a programme of discussions and lectures and will be invited to join educational events and creative workshops.

ArtVilnius’17 will run June 8 through 11 at the exhibition and congress centre Litexpo. For more information, visit

ArtVilnius’17 patron is the City of Vilnius, the main sponsor is the Lithuanian Council of Culture, the exclusive partner is Lewben Group, the event’s Maecenas is Cobalt law firm.

Photo Marius Žičius