The Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum unveiled a new art exhibit December 16 called “Shalom Israel! Litvak Artists.” The show includes 37 works by 24 Litvak artists from the museum’s collections, the Lewben Art Foundation, the Lithuanian Exiles Art Fund, the attorney’s office Valiunas Ellex and other private collections. The Good Will Foundation funded acquisition of a few art pieces that now belong to the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum. One of the more surprising items at the opening was a musical presentation by Martynas Levickis, accordion player and one of Lithuania’s most famous virtuosos. Levickis performed works by Paganini, Rossini and Vivaldi.
Deputy museum director Dr. Kamilė Rupeikaitė welcomed guests to the event. Lithuanian MP Emanuelis Zingeris said that Litvak artists kept putting Lithuania on the map even when the country was occupied and acted as Lithuanian ambassadors to the world. He said their Lithuanian origins were indicated next to their works at the most famous galleries everywhere.
Art history expert and curator Dr. Vilma Gradinskaitė presented the idea behind the exhibit and pointed out that almost all of the works on exhibit were being shown publicly for the first time. Two contemporary artists, R. Savickas and A. Jacovskytė, even created works especially for this exhibition. Dr. Gradinskaitė said: “Some of the paintings and graphics works, drawing and medals executed in various styles reveal a dual process in the development of Jewish art and demonstrate how Litvak artists shaped Israeli art, as well as how Israel’s natural environment and local folk-art traditions affected the artistic expression of Litvak artists, including scenery, manner of painting, color palette and mood.”
The works on exhibit cover more than a century and represent different schools of art. For the first time the Lithuanian public can appreciate the striving for a national Jewish art by the founder of the art school in Palestine (opened in 1906), B. Shatz, and his followers Y. Budka, M. Bernstein and Y. Kowarski; the expressionists E. Mane-Katz, M. Band, B. Tsukerman, J. Kazlauskas and I. Kulvianskis; and works by the representatives of the ethnic Jewish symbolism school which became popular in Israel after World War II including M. Chagall, T. Tobias and S. Bak. Marijampolė native M. Rozental and S. Tepler perfected the expression of figurative abstraction, while Kaunas resident Y. Streichman and Mažeikiai resident P. Abramovich’s artistic experimentation led to lyrical abstractionism. The exhibit includes contemporary artists who have emigrated to Israel including L. Ray and D. Zundelovičius as well as resident Lithuanian artists including A. Jacovskis, A. Jacovskytė, R. Savickas and S. Teitelbaumas, in whose works images of the Promised Land and feelings for the historical homeland are combined and expressed through metaphor and allusion.
The exhibit will be open to the public at the Tolerance Center until March 13, 2016. Photographs by Paulius Račiūnas