With all the talk of America, China, Japan, Korea, Brazil…it’s perhaps easy to forget that so many smaller countries have been going through just what everyone else has during the coronavirus pandemic—but without any of the column inches in international outlets.
So this story coming out of Vilnius addresses just that, and confirms that creativity all over the world was not brought low, but instead was inspired to thrive during these months of uncertainty. Indeed the work of 100 Lithuanian artists now form an exhibition decisively titled Art Needs No Roof, winding through the center of the city. Partnering with outdoor advertising operator JCDecaux Lietuva, the city’s mayor Remigijus Šimašius conceived the idea to replace commercial billboards with works of contemporary art, perhaps a metaphor for how, during times of crisis, culture should be prioritized over commerce, as one is clearly better than the other at assisting in the process of healing.
“Although art galleries are already open, the restrictions for social gatherings remain in place,” Šimašius explains. “Therefore, Vilnius ‘takes its roof off.’ We have turned the city centre into a huge open-air gallery. We hope that the project will stimulate creativity and some works will find their way into people’s homes.”
Citizens and visitors can use a specially created virtual map to navigate the exhibition. And amongst the lesser knowns, they will ultimately discover the works of such internationally venerated Lithuanian talents as Vilmantas Marcinkevičius, Vytenis Jankūnas, Laisvydė Šalčiūtė, Algis Kriščiūnas and Živilė Žvėrūna, and Svajonė & Paulius Stanikas (SetP Stanikas). Selection was based on both the visual qualities of the works, and their ability to integrate within the landscape of the city.
“The quarantine was a special time for me as an artist,” offers Ms. Žvėrūna. “It was a time of reflection, when you can stop to think deeper about our society and the role that art plays in it. The pandemic made us find new ways to experience culture. That’s why this project is so interesting: for several weeks billboards are filled with works of art. I can now clearly see that curiosity and new experiences is replacing the universal fear of the first days of the pandemic.”
Art Needs No Roof will be in display in central Vilnius until July 26.