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Applied Art and Design. 1918 – 2018


Museum of Applied Arts and Design

Vilnius | Lithuania

About the show
The venue

It is no accident that the history of applied art and design is being presented in this exhibition dedicated to mark the Centennial of the Restoration of the State. These art fields are closely related to society’s economic and cultural needs, their elements function in our everyday space and have a direct impact on our aesthetic sensibilities, reflecting our expectations. We notice the twist and turns of history in the evolution of applied art and design: the creation of the foundation of the restored state and the distinct milestones of modernisation of the inter-war years, the goal to navigate between the canon and the freedom of self-expression in the Soviet years, and after the reinstatement of independence – the need to liberate creative ideas inhibited for so long under ideological oppression.

The work of the most famous applied art representatives and designers from the last century are on display at this exhibition, which also presents the activities of the education institutions that trained these specialists, as well as the products from the art production enterprises that formed public tastes and everyday aesthetics (the standards from the 'Dailė' art goods manufactories in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda, the Vilnius Fashion House, the Vilnius branch of the Soviet Union Technical Aesthetics Scientific Research Institute, the Lentvaris Carpet Factory, the silk textiles factory 'Kauno audiniai', etc.).

The specific applied art (textile, ceramics, glass, metal, etc.) and design (furniture, graphic design) segments that have been distinguished in the exposition chronologically reflect the evolution of each field from the first steps taken in the restoration of the state until our days, giving viewers the opportunity to gain a deeper awareness of the aesthetic shifts in different intervals, the search for identity, the relationship between tradition and innovation. The review begins at the source – folk art exhibits that are infused with the nation’s years-long course of experience (chairs, wood carvings, textiles), embodying the main structural factors of a work – construction, ornamentation and colour. The applied art and design exhibits from the inter-war period demonstrate the burgeoning nation’s ambitions to become a modern country which has retained its national uniqueness, implementing a modernised national style and raising the sense of emotional identification among citizens with their homeland.

The first post-war decade was one of the most dramatic periods in Lithuania’s history that forced its people to reorientate themselves and adapt to the Soviet ideology. However, this period was also characterised by the development of light industry and the creation of our nation’s design foundations in the educational system. In contrast to the post-war years, the breakthrough of innovation of the late 1950s and 1960s and initiatives in modernising everyday surrounds allowed applied art and graphic design objects to rid themselves of the academic and illustrative qualities of social realism that often encouraged monumental, decorative stylisation based on folk images. One of the first departments of its kind in the Soviet Union was founded at the Lithuanian Institute of Art in 1961, the Department of Artistic Construction of Industrial Products (the present-day Design Department), while in 1966 the Vilnius branch of the Soviet Union Technical Aesthetics Scientific Research Institute was opened, and the innovative collections coming from the Vilnius Fashion House started being exhibited at international shows. Yet the restrictions of the schematic image identified with the modern standard, and its inability to convey adequate psychological depth in the applied art of the 1970s–1980s, opened the door to a more subjective world view and individual treatment of themes. Once independence was restored, the need for reforms arose, to learn the new rules of art. Not only decorative works took on a more conceptual appearance, but also designers’ works. The rapid distancing away from the modernist world view led to the creation of a mixed, metaphorical form of expression in contemporary applied art, characteristic exclusively to Lithuania.

Exhibition architecture and design by architects Saulius Valius and Jurgis Dagelis, graphics designer Juozapas Švelnys. 

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Museum of Applied Arts and Design
Arsenalo g. 3A


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