Lithuania is famous for its historical heritage. Fascinating castles, churches and old towns attract a lot of tourists. But what is not so talked about is the artistical side of this country. Every city and town in Lithuania have a cultural center, many of them at least one gallery or art museum. Art is very appreciated in Lithuania. The ethnographic art forms, like weaving, braiding, knitting and crocheting have been the most popular for a long time. Recently the society has understood that it’s not enough to cherish what’s old, we have to create something new and unique. That’s why the number of modern art institutions, museums, galleries, exhibitions and art-related sights has increased rapidly through the past twenty years. Kaunas is the second biggest city in Lithuania. It is great for tourists because it holds a lot of different kinds of attractions. Art-related, hipster-attracting sights are one of them. Here I am sharing my artsy experience in this wonderful city – the five places to visit if you are into art and creativity or if you are an open-minded person seeking for something different and unique in your travel experience.
Mykolas Zilinskas art gallery
The gallery was founded in 1989 in order to keep and show the public the works of art that the collector Mykolas Zilinskas had collected through the 80s and 90s. The building is located in the heart of Kaunas – at the end of the Independence alley, just beside the St Michael the Archangel Church (Independence square 12). In the gallery you can find mainly paintings from Renaissance and Baroque which is not modern at all, you’d say. But what’s really fascinating is that this gallery almost always has a modern exhibition, showing the works of artists active now or a few years ago, both local artists and creators from abroad, everything from paintings to photography. You should check out the exhibitions on the internet before coming. They are usually replaced every couple of months which allows having a wide range of different styles of art displayed in the gallery. Of course, the collection of Mykolas Zilinskas is also interesting. There are not just paintings but also Egyptian and Chinese art, a hall of all kinds of Renaissance furniture. The halls themselves are what attracts me the most to this gallery – every room is painted in a different, vivid color, not the neutral white as we are used to seeing in galleries. This makes this place perfect for photo shoots and beautiful photos for your Instagram feed. You’ll spend hours in this beautiful gallery and won’t have to suffer the crowds of people – I have been here around ten times and all of them I was either the only visitor or one of five. And you’ll get the possibility to wander around the empty halls for as long as you want for just a couple of Euros.
Kaunas picture gallery. Cafe “Kultura”
This gallery is a few minutes away from the Mykolas Zilinskas art gallery, so I would recommend visiting them together. This gallery is smaller, older than the previous one. It holds mainly temporary exhibitions. Some of them aren’t very impressive, like the traditional Lithuanian paintings (they usually are dark and psychologically heavy, not optimistical at all), but also all kinds of modern art exhibitions are held here quite often. Parts of the international Kaunas biennial are exhibited here every year. But the most attractive part of this institution is the cafe “Kultura” (which translates into “Culture”). It’s a very alternative place to eat, drink and hang out. The staff is very friendly and the atmosphere is welcoming. It’s especially nice in summer. You can enjoy your meal outside, surrounded by paintings by street artists on the walls of the gallery. What I also enjoy here are the low prices and the often held music and poetry events. Here you can find alternative music gems and some friendly young artists.
The Old Town
The Old Town of Kaunas is a free art gallery itself if you take some time to explore it and walk not only the main street (Vilnius street). The narrow streets of the Old Town are full of amazing street art – from tiny hidden messages, which make you smile when you find them and realize their meaning to huge pieces taking the whole wall. Take your time to explore and you’ll be surprised by how many and unique works of art you can find here. Many of them are the laureates of international contests. An interesting fact, Kaunas is increasing the funding for this kind of projects. The time when artists had conflicts with the owners of the property is now in the past. There are many contests created to make Kaunas even more attractive for the street art lovers and young people. So, don’t forget to look around and you’ll be fascinated.
A work by Ramune Barkauskaite
Kaunas Artists’ House
The building is a place where the Kaunas’ artistic spirit lives. You can find it in Putvinskio Street 56. This is the place for professional actors, writers, directors, musicians to meet and create together. Kaunas Artists’ House is not very popular for every day visiting, but there are interesting performances, exhibitions, concerts, jazz jams, dance performances, meetings with artists and competitions held very often. The institution doesn’t limit itself to just well known traditional Lithuanian artists – recently there was an opening for a Morfai (Lithuanian street artist) art exhibition. Make sure to check out the events held here and don’t miss a chance to meet interesting local artists. You’ll be able to chat with a lot of unique people – from older professionals to young street artists. I love the coziness of this small gallery.
M. K. Ciurlionis National Museum of Art
This museum is in front of the Kaunas Artists’ House. Mykolas Konstantinas Ciurlionis is the most famous Lithuanian artist. His symbolistical paintings are widely known. This gallery is dedicated to his work. Here you can find a lot of his original paintings. It’s worth spending some time in front of every each of them. I, personally, get a wide range of different feelings looking at the paintings. They are mystical, eye-catching, but also calming and melancholic. They invite to search for hidden meanings and symbols, to find all the messages and different emotions. Even though the most of the paintings are small they don’t feel insignificant at all. It’s worth hiring a guide. I’m not a fan of them but I have had a journey through the gallery with a guide twice and both times it was really interesting. Maybe because the life of Ciurlionis is tragic and his experiences can be found in his paintings, but you need someone to show them because they are hidden so well. Another reason to visit this place is the music hall. Here you can enjoy the recordings of Ciurlionis’ music. Just close your eyes and imagine that you're in one of his paintings.
All of these objects are located in the center of the city and you don’t need any extra transport or guide to reach them. Everything connects and you also are able to enjoy walking in the beautiful city. Kaunas is a place where art is flourishing. If you visited it once and came here after a year, I can guarantee that the difference that you’d notice would be huge. The old dirty walls are being covered with breath-taking pieces by street artists, there are many new bars and cafes for artistic people, the people who seek for something unusual, different and modern. There are also so many events in different areas that it’s hard to choose, everything is so unique and interesting. One of the advantages is that most of these events and the entrance to the galleries are free or cost less than 5 Euros. Here in Kaunas, you can experience how the art is growing.