An interview with Aldis Plaudis, an art collector in Latvia.
Could you say a few words about your art collection?
Our family’s collection mostly consists of works by Latvian artists—both graphic works and sculptures—yet 95% of the collection consists of Latvian paintings. The size of the collection approaches four hundred works, which encompass the period that, in my opinion, can be associated with Latvian painting in general, that is, the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day.
Do you remember the very first work you purchased, the one that could be considered the starting point for the collection?
As an opera lover, I was very impressed by the portrait of the famous opera singer Milda Brehmane Štengele painted in 1943 by Jānis Tīdemanis, in a frame beautiful carved by V. Pauzers. This work can be considered the start of my collection.
Which work in your collection do you consider a masterpiece?
Works that are usually considered masterpieces are exclusive, expensive works of art, yet I’d like to mention two works whose monetary value differs more than a hundredfold.
One of the works that I consider a masterpiece in my collection is an absolutely unremarkable 15x25 cm. coal drawing, the only known self-portrait of Voldemārs Irbe. The tarnished page proves how well the “Barefooted Irbīte,” the first Latvian hippy, knew how to store his works… But regardless of that, precisely this self-portrait was chosen as the title page of a monograph about Irbe published during the Soviet period. There were lots of caricatures, drawings, photographs, and satires about this folk artist, yet there is only one self-portrait.
The second masterpiece is a self-portrait in oil of Kārlis Padegs. The painting is torn and crudely patched up, yet it has its own special story… Legend holds that Padegs himself threw a brick at the portrait, in order to provoke a scandal in society and thereby attract more visitors to his exhibit Under the Lindens. This is probably the only torn and damaged painting that I will never entrust to the careful hands of a restorer… At a 1997 exhibited devoted to Kārlis Padegs at the National Museum of Art, K. Padegs: Dandy and Outsider, this self-portrait—known as “The Torn Painting”—was displayed not on the wall, as usual, but on the easel of Padegs’s old friend Valdis Kalnroze, in the place of honor.