The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (MDAD) was opened on 6 July 1989, and this year it celebrates its 30th anniversary. The museum is housed in the listed 13th century monument of architecture – St. George’s Church. Throughout these years the MDAD has been faithful to its core tasks – to educate the public and stimulate its interest in the heritage of Latvian and international decorative art and design in its historical and artistic manifestations, highlighting the place of the national school of art in the history of culture and contemporary processes.
The 2019 exhibition programme is worthy of a celebration: it began with the unusual exposition The Weather Diaries from the Nordic countries, which earned undivided public recognition, later giving the visitors an opportunity to get to know the work of the internationally renowned Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930–2017). In the second half of the year, the exhibitions will be devoted to Latvian art and design: the show of the renowned fashion designer duo MAREUNROL’S will take place in autumn, while a broad retrospective of Edīte Pauls-Vīgnere, a legend of Latvian textile art, is scheduled for the end of the year. The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design wishes to mark its birthday with an exhibition and special public programme which would highlight a less-visible part of the museum’s work – its collection.
The exhibition EXPOSING THE HIDDEN is built as a cycle of stories telling about the ways in which objects enter the museum. These routes of entry vary and are determined by different factors: the principles of the state’s cultural policy, economic situation, shifts in values and priorities in collection management policy, also various coincidences. Over the course of thirty years, many changes have taken place in our country and society, logically influencing the development of the museum. Today MDAD wants to take a complex look at this set of questions, reflecting on the future perspective of the museum and its collection.
The task of a modern museum is to ensure that this information is open and conveyed to the public in an intelligible manner. The collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design holds 11 928 items, while the permanent exhibition presents only 522 of them. The visitor actually sees only a tiny fraction of the sizeable collection, therefore it is important to tell the public about the processes that take place beyond the visible part of the “iceberg”, to make the specifics of the work with the museum’s collection more open and more accessible. New forms of communication are sought to make museum’s objects emotionally appeal to the visitors, develop empathy and foster interest in the museum’s work in general, thus welcoming a mutual dialogue about the significance of the museum’s treasures in the 21st century.
The exhibition is built on the principle of open collection. The exhibits selected by the DMDM collection curators (more than 70 items) are grouped according to the story of their arrival at the museum. The visitor will feel as though opening a chest of unknown treasures, where each object has a special, mysterious history, and everyone will have the opportunity to discover their own pearls. Significantly, majority of the objects selected for the exhibition will be shown publicly for the very first time. These are:
- DONATIONS: when people generously present their family relics to the museum; presents of artists or their relatives who wish to preserve important or award-winning works for the future; gifts from the artists’ supporters etc.;
- ACQUISITIONS: regular acquisitions supported by the Ministry of Culture during the period of the Latvian SSR; the museum’s fragmented attempts to carry on systematic expansion of the collection with the most current and valuable objects;
- CONSERVATION: when objects turned into a pile of debris by the passage of time regain their original brilliance;
- RECOVERED TRESURES AND ACCIDENTAL FINDS: every tale here is special and sometimes worthy of a true detective story.
Inese Baranovska, Head of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design / Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga
EXHIBITION WORK GROUP:
Velta Raudzepa, Dace Ļaviņa, Rūta Rinka, Ieva Zvejniece