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Daiga Grantiņa. Photo: Toan Vu Huu

Latvia’s 2019 Cultural Highlights 0

With the arrival of the new year, it is time to review the latest lineup of cultural events and make sure that we note down on our schedules the best and brightest art happenings anticipated in the months ahead. Having just gone through all of Latvia's centenary events – not to mention the very first RIBOCA, the 13th Baltic International Triennial of Art, a slew of new feature films and concerts, and many other important exhibitions here in Latvia and abroad – one would think it’s a good time to take a breather. However, cultural life in Latvia continues to flourish as never before, offering listeners, viewers and the general public an event programme no less broader in scope than in the previous season, thereby reassuringly placing Latvia on the list of top cultural destinations in 2019.

2019 is slated to be a special year in terms of both the wide range of upcoming projects that will be visible on an international scale, and the fact that it is the 100th anniversary since the founding of many of Latvia’s national cultural institutions. One hundred years ago, during a time of great uncertainty and even danger, the fledgling country saw the establishment of the Latvian National Opera, the University of Latvia, the Latvian National Archives, the Art Academy of Latvia, and the Latvian National Theater. These institutions have managed to preserve their significance and functionality despite the various political changes that have taken place over the intervening years, and today they still form the core culture of Latvia. In addition to the special anniversary celebrations being held by these institutions, the Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMA) has, as always, prepared an interesting 2019 exhibition programme, beginning with the show Boris Jurie and No!art, featuring works by Jurie and his contemporaries, which will be open from January to March at the Art Museum Riga Bourse. As for the LNMA’s ‘Arsenāls’ Exhibition Hall, a solo show featuring Estonian painter Kaido Ole has been booked during the peak of summer. And, of course, 2019 will see the awarding of the 6th Purvītis Prize, as well as Latvia’s participation in the 58th Venice Biennale... 


The last film in the special series ‘Latvian Films for the Latvian Centenary’ will be the crime drama 1906, directed by Gatis Šmits. 

See the film’s teaser trailer here.


From April 10 to May 12, the unique exhibition The Chair as a Work of Art will be on view in the 3rd-floor vestibule of the Latvian National Museum of Art. It will feature a part of Belgian art collector Galila Barzilaï-Hollander’s collection of chairs made by artists (with chairs making up just one of more than 20 different conceptual and thematic branches of her vast collection).

We primarily perceive the chair from a functional point of view that is based on its role in everyday life, however in this exhibition, it will be showcased as a multi-faceted and ideologically diverse material for artistic creativity. Over the years, the communicative and visual qualities of the chair have attracted the attention of many artists. In total there will be 50 chairs in the exhibition, representing the work of such artists as Franz West and Hans-Peter Feldmann, and the industrial designer Ron Arad.

The exhibition is being produced in cooperation with

Latvian National Museum of Art
10/04 – 12/05

Additional information:


On April 11 and 12, Finnish contemporary circus artists Sanja Kosonen and Elice Abonce Muhonen will present a modern version of the ancient Chinese circus tradition of hair hanging at the Riga Circus. In the magical performance titled Capilotractées (Hair Hang), the two artists dance, pirouette, and rise into the air suspended just by their hair. Throughout the show, Kosonen and Muhonen challenge emotional and psychological boundaries, human imagination, and the physical and spiritual abilities of the body.

Battling pain and fear, Kosonen and Muhonen revive the tradition and symbolism of a circus that was thought long bygone, yet still evokes powerful themes of beauty, physicality, and feminine power.

Riga Circus
11/04 and 12/04

Additional information:


Paulis Liepa. N8317R (2017)

On April 12 of this year, the sixth winner of the Purvītis Prize will be announced at a special ceremony to be held at the Zuzeum Art Centre. As it has become accustomed, the prize will be awarded to an artist or group of artists who have particularly distinguished themselves in the past two years by creating an outstanding body of artwork that reflects the current era. The members of the expert working group assembled for the 2019 Purvītis Prize are: Astrīda Rogule, art historian and Curator of the Contemporary Art Collection at the LNMA; Inese Baranovska, art historian, curator, and Head of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design/LNMA; Vilnis Vējš, art critic; Kaspars Vanags, art curator; Sniedze Kāle, art historian, curator and Manager of Mūkusala Art Salon; art historian Inese Riņķe; and and art historian and critic Santa Hirša. The winner of the Purvītis Prize will be selected by an international jury of seven professionals.

An exhibition featuring works by the nominees for the prize will open at the Great Hall of the LNMA a few weeks prior to the announcing of the winner (i.e. March 23), and will be on view through June 9.

Latvian National Museum of Art
23/03 – 09/06

Zuzeum Art Centre

Additional information:


In April, the Latvian National Opera and Ballet Theatre will premier two single-act ballet productions – Hamlet and (Don’t) Tell Me Tales. Inspired by William Shakespeare's tragedy,Hamlet will be the debut full-length ballet production by emerging choreographer and dancer Antons Freimanis. In this reflection upon our attitudes towards life and death, Freimanis addresses several generations and builds dialogues between them that discuss both the past and the future through the medium of dance. Creation of the visual imagery of the production has been entrusted to the internationally acclaimed Latvian fashion designer duo of MAREUNROL’S.

(Don’t) Tell Me Tales is principal dancer Elza Leimane's interpretation of the literary work Colourful Tales by the beloved Latvian writer Imants Ziedonis. Metaphorically comparing ballet with a story, Leimane explores the colourful vibrancy of both art forms on stage. Composers and musicians for the production: Shipsea, Matīss Čudars, and Kaspars Kurdeko; stage designer: Andris Freibergs.

Latvian National Opera and Ballet Theatre
12/04 – 14/04, and 09/05

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Auseklis Baušķenieks. Get back on the horse, 1995

From April 7 to May 29, the Hessel Museum of Art in New York will feature the interdisciplinary research exhibition BALTICANA. The curator of the exhibition is Zane Onckule, and the project is being done in cooperation with the kim? Contemporary Art Centre.

Onckule describes BALTICANA as a poetic study of the links between the historical, cultural and socio-political contexts of the Baltic region and how they relate to art and society. Assembling together various metaphors on the subject, the exhibition has been designed as an allegory of an imaginary fourth sister of the Baltic States known as BALTICANA.

The exhibition includes works by Auseklis Baušķenieks, Vytautas Jurevičius, Ilya Lipkin, and others.

Hessel Museum of Art
07/04 – 29/05

Additional information:


Daiga Grantiņa. Photo: Toan Vu Huu

The 2019 Venice Biennale has been titled May You Live in Interesting Times, and Ralph Rugoff, head curator of the event, has explained that the title refers to the current period in which fake news and ‘alternative facts’ have taken centre stage. The approach that the 58th Venice Biennale has decided to take is to present the art viewer with the opportunity to ‘embrace both pleasure and critical thinking’.

Latvia will be represented at this year's exhibition by the internationally acclaimed artist Daiga Grantiņa, who deftly engages aesthetic collisions of light and matter in her sculptural objects and conceptual language. She is currently one of the most influential voices in contemporary art. For the Venice Biennale, Grantiņa has created the work Bāka (Lighthouse), which acts as both a conveyor of light and a guide for someone who needs help in orientating themselves.

Latvia’s pavilion is being produced by the association kim?, in cooperation with the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, and will be curated by Inga Lāce and Valentinas Klimašauskas.

The 58th International Venice Art Biennale
11/05 – 24/11

Additional information:


Janeks Simons

In September 2018, the first part of the annual festival Survival Kit was held at the Riga Circus, and soon enough fans of contemporary art will be able to experience the sequel in May of this year. The second part of the festival will continue to be based upon the thematic concept of ‘outlands’, but will also address the emerging issue of migration routes within Europe itself.

For the first time in its ten years of existence, Survival Kit will take place in Pārdaugava (the part of Riga on the left bank of the Daugava River), thereby prominently marking the creative energy of this neighbourhood on the cultural map of the city. The exact location of the festival’s venue will be unveiled shortly before its opening. More than 20 international and local artists will be participating in Survival Kit 10.1.

Additional information:


The Art Academy of Latvia (AAL) is celebrating its 100th anniversary with an ambitious cultural programme this year which will include several exhibitions honouring the milestone by featuring the work of both emerging and already notable (i.e. AAL teaching staff) Latvian artists.

From June 3 to 21, the University of Latvia’s Former Faculty of Biology building will be, for the first time, taking over the hosting of the AAL Diploma Work Festival. The extensive exhibition will present the diploma work of all students graduating from the Academy’s various bachelor and master programmes; at a later date, it will be supplemented with pilot projects from respective sub-departments of the Academy as well as the annual AAL fashion show.

On August 20, a book that looks back on the Academy’s 100 years, and which has been put together by 100 graduates of the AAL (a group consisting of both current and former students and staff) will be presented in the AAL Garden. The book includes interpretations by artists and art historians on a particular year of their choice in the lifespan of the LAA.

From September 14 to November 3, the ‘Arsenāls’ Exhibition Hall will host the anniversary exhibition of the Art Academy of Latvia. The show will be set up in a ‘living history’ kind of framework, and will accent inter-generational cooperation, creative spaces, and artistic interactions.

University of Latvia’s Former Faculty of Biology
03/06 – 21/06

Art Academy of Latvia

‘Arsenāls’ Exhibition Hall
14/09 – 03/11

Additional information:

CĒSIS ART FESTIVAL 2019: Exhibition Tuvplāns/Close-Up 

Edvīns Strautmanis

The central event of the 2019 Cēsis Art Festival will be the visual arts exhibition Tuvplāns/Close-Up, in which in-depth research will merge with the principles of classic art exhibiting. At the focus of the project will be outstanding figures of the art world who are united by both their Latvian roots and their ability to integrate into a global cultural context: Māris Bišofs, Signe Baumane, Vija Celmiņa, Svens Lūkins, Artūrs Virtmanis, and other artists who have lived or are still living in New York.

The subject of another monumental exhibition will be Liepāja-born artist Edvīns Strautmanis, whose body of work is unquestionably associated with the Action Painting style of painting, yet can clearly be seen to have been inspired by the work of the Dutch-American abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning.

This year, the main visual art exhibition will be located in a new industrial space that is highly evocative of the famed lofts of New York City. Formerly a factory belonging to the Latvian Society for the Blind, this summer the historical building, its courtyard, and even its roof will be suffused with both contemporary and historical art.

The former factory of the Latvian Society for the Blind
06/07 – 11/08

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Miķelis Fišers. (2015)

From September 13 to October 31, Den Frie Centre for Contemporary Art in Copenhagen will present Unexpected Encounters, an art exhibition featuring artists from the Baltic Sea region and organised by the Latvian Contemporary Art Centre (in collaboration with Den Frie Centre for Contemporary Art in Copenhagen and the Ujadowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw).

The exhibition (its title referencing  a collection of science fiction writings by the Strugatsky brothers) is an attempt at envisioning possible future scenarios on both a global and Baltic-Sea-region scale, and which are based upon events from the recent past as well as cognizant of the present. By highlighting science fiction as a subject that, up until recently, was still trendy in eastern Europe and the Baltic states, the exhibition forms a unifying view of the mentality of the Baltic Sea region.

The exhibition will travel to the ‘Arsenāls’ Exhibition Hall in December of 2019, and then to the Ujadowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw in the spring of 2020.

Den Frie Centre for Contemporary Art in Copenhagen
13/09 – 31/10

Additional information:


Hiromi. Photo: Muga Miyahara

On October 6 the Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi will perform at the ‘Great Amber’ (Lielais dzintars) Concert Hall in Liepāja. Hiromi is one of the world's most famous musicians in the genre, and fans call the breathtaking piano soloist and composer a true virtuoso. Hiromi began to play piano at age six, and at 14 was already performing with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2010, Hiromi won the prestigious Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. In her concert programmes, Hiromi combines a classical music repertoire with the best elements of jazz and rock. This concert at ‘Great Amber’ is one of many stops on the concert tour promoting Hiromi’s latest album, Solo, and is the concert hall’s grandest event scheduled for 2019.

‘Great Amber’ Concert Hall