Antanas Sutkus: KOSMOS at the National Gallery of Art

2018 11 09 — 2019 01 13 at National Gallery of Art, Vilnius
Author Echo Gone Wrong
Published in Events in Lithuania
Antanas Sutkus. Matriculation in Vilnius University. Vilnius, 1969

Antanas Sutkus. Matriculation in Vilnius University. Vilnius, 1969

With the exhibition KOSMOS we celebrate the great photographer Antanas Sutkus on behalf of the 100th anniversary of the restored state of Lithuania. In Lithuania he is not only famous, he is a monument but what brought him to this popularity?

Imagine a childhood in the picturesque Lithuanian countryside: the suicide of the father right at the beginning of the Soviet occupation, the desperate search for truth in school, the bone-hard work in the moor, the Christian education by the grandparents and the suffering of tuberculosis. This and other challenges in his private life left traces in Antanas Sutkus’ work. He preserved humanity even in the darkest moments of life, combining it with existential care for his environment and great organizational skills. All this made him an important initiator for the Lithuanian School of Photography. So he founded together with others the Lithuanian Association of Photographers – in times when all impulses used to come from Moscow.

His pictures gave the inhabitants of Lithuania, their lives and the country itself a face, and by this work he became a chronicler of his time. Especially in his main work, “Lietuvos žmonės”, “People from Lithuania”, he recorded them so impressively since the late 1950s that these images still reach us emotionally today. We discover street scenes and subtle everyday scenes in which people move completely naturally: the normal life, away from any excitement. We see young and old, children and workers, artists and farmers, town and country, modernity and tradition, farewell and encounter, traffic, boredom or just the rain. All and everything has its place on Antanas Sutkus´ Planet Lithuania, which in those days was almost as difficult to reach from the west as the moon.

The essence of his esthetics is the free view. The brilliance and sensitivity of his work reached the highest levels: Composition, construction and content were amalgamated into something which developed slightly over the years but already was there when he started to take images.

With nearly 300 images, including many previously unseen works, the exhibition presents a new look at the tremendously high quality work of this giant among the European photographers.

Thomas Schirmböck

Curators: Gintaras Česonis, Jean Marc Lacabe, Thomas Schirmböck

Organizers: National Gallery of Art, Institut français de Lituanien, Goethe-Institut Vilnius

Partners: JCDecaux, Association of Lithuanian Art Photographers, Antanas Sutkus photography archive, Embassy of France, Embassy of Germany

This project was partly financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Council for Culture

Sponsors:  EUNIC, Newsec, SIA Groglass, Vilnius Municipality, Exterus