The Latvian Collection
In which ways are museums and artists vehicles for nation state building? How does collection-building intertwine with cultural diplomacy and politics of countries?
The Latvian collection of Malmö Konstmuseum was given to the museum as a donation in 1939 and was on permanent display until 1958. There are landscape paintings, portraits, still life, illustrations, scenography and images of war, primarily from the 1930s.
The collection was meant to be representative of contemporary art in Latvia at the time. With Latvia getting its independence in 1918, the collection of 47 artworks encapsulates a general zeitgeist toward thinking and developing ideas about what Latvia is through art. Marked by the authoritarian regime of president Kārlis Ulmanis, who came to power after a coup in 1934, and its subsequent cultural policy, the collection represents an inward gaze as well as national romanticist ideas praising Latvian soil and culture.
The exhibition The Latvian Collection presents the collection in its entirety for the first time since the 1950’s alongside eight new commissions by artists who have researched the collection. The exhibition highlights overlooked narratives within the collection and looks at new ways of accessing the historic collection as a moment in time.
The exhibition is addressing larger issues pertaining to nationalism and nation state building in the Baltic region at the same time acknowledging the fragility of smaller nation states and how they could act asantidotes to imperialism.
The starting point for the invited artists was to look at the collection and explore ways of thinking beyond nation states. Dreaming of new ways of organizing something as fundamental as nation states is not an easy task and with the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 by Russia it has become almost impossible.
The newly commissioned works will become part of Malmö Konstmuseum’s permanent art collection, emerging as extensions and interpretations of the existing Latvian collection, providing windows into how it was perceived in 2022 for future curators, artists, and visitors. This way, the collection-building process stretches in time towards present and going beyond the borders of the Latvian nation state.
Curated by Inga Lāce and Lotte Løvholm
Exhibition architect: Līva Kreislere
Graphic design: Rūta Jumīte
The exhibition The Latvian Collection is organized in collaboration with the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) in Riga. It is also part of the project “From Complicated Past Towards Shared Futures”, a collaboration between the LCCA, the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius (Lithuanian National Museum of Art), OFF-Biennale in Budapest, Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz, and Malmö Art Museum, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.