Stories of Things
Lithuanian Design 1918 – 2018
2018 07 13 – 09 30
Man-made objects are the best illustrations of a country’s history. However, things often do not survive a country’s crises. While the state disappears, the nation holds on, and continues its story, through literature, music, images, letters, and ultimately through legends and tales. War, occupations, emigration, repressions, exile and deportations quickly destroy things, and the void is then filled with foreign artefacts.
It is easy to trace the beginning of the modern story of Lithuanian design. In 1919, Professor Jonas Šimkus, the minister for commerce and industry in the second government of Lithuania, in his report ‘Forthcoming Challenges to Lithuanian Industry’, stated the need to develop and produce various objects: textiles, footwear, homes, office and trading equipment, crockery, scientific instruments, toys, agricultural machinery, and wagons. Over the 20 years of independence, Lithuanian consumers not only became more sophisticated, but were offered a generous selection of locally designed objects, which were recognised by awards at many international exhibitions. Who knows what the emerging Lithuanian school of design would have gone on to look like: during the years 1940 to 1944, the story was interrupted by two occupations and one reoccupation.
The postponed creative potential began to grow again when the state, an alien state, needed objects again. The new story of things also has a fixed beginning. In 1961, the Department of Industrial Design was founded at the Lithuanian State Institute of Art, in an almost empty space, where only the remnants of the former abundance of things and the newcomers of the Stalinist empire stood out. New graduate designers inevitably fell into the trap of Soviet production and consumption. The Soviet Union was not just an evil empire; it was also a poorly functioning empire. The ideologised economy conflicted with the principles of good design, and every eye-catching object made in Lithuania before 1990 is a paradox worthy of a separate story.
After the restoration of independence, the metaphor of an empty space threatened to become a reality for a third time. State-owned design institutions, with their large commissions, disappeared, and designers were not prepared for working and surviving in the global capitalist market. But in practice, things went differently. The emerging business world, both young and energetic, adapted quickly to the new conditions, and by 1991 had already begun to export Lithuanian-designed goods. The story of things changed its tune again, turning obscure historical reflections and Soviet anecdotes into success stories, adding an intriguing new twist to the story of Lithuanian design.
The exhibition ‘Stories of Things. Lithuanian Design 1918-2018’, held to mark 100 years of the restored Lithuanian state, tells us how the design of objects and the designers themselves started in Lithuania, revealing unexpected connections between history, personalities and their projects.
Curators: Karolina Jakaitė, Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Lijana Natalevičienė, Gintautė Žemaitytė, Ernestas Parulskis
Authors of the texts: Karolina Jakaitė, Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Rasa Janulevičiūtė, Žilvinas Lidžius, Jurgita Ludavičienė, Lijana Natalevičienė, Ernestas Parulskis, Auksė Petrulienė, Vytis Ramanauskas, Adomas Rutkauskas, Gintautė Žemaitytė
Exhibition lenders: Amber gallery, Energy and Technology Museum, Fondazione La Triennale di Milano, Kretinga Museum, Kupiškis Etnography Museum, Lithuanian Central State Archive, Lithuanian National Museum, Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania, M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, Money Museum, Šiauliai Aušros Museum, Museum of Vilnius Art Academy, Vytautas The Great War Museum, Tallinn Art Academy, The Tamošaitis gallery “Židinys”, Teresė Adomaitienė, Brigita Adomonienė, Diana Armonienė, Juozas Brundza, Stasys Brundza, Sigutė Chlebinskaitė, Jurgis Garmus, Vytautas Gečas, Jonas Gerulaitis, Rapolas Gražys, Karolina Jakaitė, Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Kazimieras Januta, Nauris Kalinauskas, Jūratė Kavaliauskienė, Vytautas Kibildis, Audrius Klimas, Živilė Lukšytė, Audronė Miliauskaitė, Ina Novikova, Neringa Orlenok, Liudas Parulskis, Justa Petronienė, Auksė Petrulienė, Saulius Pilinkus, Marija Puipaitė, Kristina Pumputytė, Albinas Purys, Vytis Ramanauskas, Kęstutis Ramonas, Dalius Razauskas, Irena Rudzinskienė, Adomas Rutkauskas, Ivanas Makmakas, Gabrielė Naprušienė, Ina Novikova, Lygija Marija Stapulionienė, Birutė Stulgaitė, Ignas Survila, Algimantas Šarauskas, Aleksandras Šepkus, Simonas Tarvydas, Albinas Vaičiūnas, Sigitas Virpilaitis, Gintara Viskantė, Mindaugas Žilionis, Antanas Žilius, UAB “Acme group”, design group “Akis”, UAB “Deeper”, VšĮ “Dizaino fondas”, UAB “Elseta”, UAB EMKO, Foreign Ministery of Lithuanian Republic, UAB “Gluk Media”, design studio “Jot.Jot”, UAB “Lauksva”, UAB “March design studio”, UAB “Pixelmator Team”, UAB “TeleSoftas”.
Exhibition designers: Rokas Kilčiauskas, Adelė Dovydavičiūtė
Organizer Lithuanian Art Museum / National Gallery of Art, Vilnius
This project was partly financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Council for Culture
Media sponsors: lrytas.lt, magazine Centras/Interjeras.lt, magazine Created in Lithuania, Lithuanian Design Forum