“Context” became a key word in my conversation with Lolita Jablonskiene. It’s important to view an art fact, an art period, and a text about art as inextricably linked to a given situation. One translation of the Latin word contextus is “woven together.” An art museum must make sure a visitor perceives the fabric’s overall pattern, instead of just knitting his brow in incomprehension at the stitch of contemporary art. The Lithuanian National Gallery of Art, a branch of the Lithuanian Museum of Art, is dedicated to the development of Lithuanian art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Alongside the permanent exposition, various exhibits examine Lithuanian art in an international context.
You are an art critic, curator, and the director of the Lithuanian National Gallery of Art. How do you manage all these duties? Do you divide them up according to priority? That’s a difficult questions, but the issue right now isn’t priorities but, rather, responsibility. If anyone dreams about becoming an administrator, I can divulge that they’ll have to be ready for the consequences. For example, I devote most of my time to another curatorial job—I develop the program for the gallery. This means that I’m involved with projects not so much as a curator but, rather, as a strategist. I consider what we as a museum wish to do, and then, working alongside the curators of the exhibits, we evaluate what would be meaningful and reasonable to actualize, taking into account things like the possibilities of attracting co-financing.
An art museum and its visitors—what is the ideal relationship model between the two? In my inner dialogues as well as in conversations with others about the development of contemporary art programs in Lithuania and abroad, I’ve considered whether or not we actually know our audience. Not just so we remain firmly planted on the ground, but also to make sure we don’t underestimate the knowledge and expectations of our visitors. My answer to this is: no, we don’t know. But we shouldn’t be ashamed of this. No one can determine this beforehand, because a growth in the number of visitors is closely linked with an institution’s development. If the latter falters, then the growth in the number of visitors doesn’t move anywhere, either. And vice versa.
I don’t like the expression “building an audience,” which is used in museum management. I wouldn’t venture to apply this phrase to a visitor at the National Gallery of Art. Rather, I’d say that we wish to establish contact with them. For this reason we have expanded our educational program.