Contemporary Art Centre presents “Tony Soprano” – a sculpture by Lithuanian artist Donatas Jankauskas at Vienna International Art Fair (10-13 October).
The sculpture of Soprano was created in 2009, when Vilnius (together with Austria’s city of Linz) was enjoying the title of Europe’s capital of culture, and the city’s art life had taken a much faster lane than before. On the night of January 1st, incredibly impressive fireworks coloured the sky over Vilnius, followed by equally majestic openings of new museums and art festivals. Events followed one another, and, like in a fairy tale, wine flowed freely and festive music could be heard in the approaches of cultural institutions almost the whole year…
At the same time, the year 2009 was the peak of the economy crisis in the country. Lithuanian Airlines (which had been supposed to bring swarms of tourists and art lovers from abroad) went bankrupt in January, the budgets of state institutions underwent drastic cuts, and the employees’ salaries went down. The local media were flooded with announcements about the necessity of austerity measures and saving every cent.
The sculpture of Soprano was born in the summer of 2009 precisely in this obviously schizophrenic cultural context. It emerged in the cozy courtyard of the Lithuanian Theatre, Music and Film Museum as part of the culture capital project’s Art in Unexpected Spaces programme. Due to a sudden cut in the project’s budget the famous figure of the TV series The Sopranos was initially presented being 1.5 metres shorter (barely 4 metres high) than it currently is. Sunk in the lawn of the museum’s courtyard down to his knees, Soprano looked like a meteor that had hit the ground and stuck in it.
Duonis offers a fairly straightforward explanation for the fact that this body from the TV chronicles of the mafia fell exactly in this spot of our planet: the mentioned museum, haunted by suspicious stories, has been governed by a single family clan for many years, so, in the author’s view, a family-minded character (taken from the episode where Tony Soprano goes out of the house in the morning to pick up the newspapers from the front lawn) is exactly what this state supported cultural institution needed.
The author of Soprano – the middle-generation Lithuanian sculptor Donatas Jankauskas (Duonis) – is a kind of artist who can effortlessly merge hardly compatible images in his visual arsenal, for instance, motifs from early 20th century classical Symbolist painting (Čiurlionis) and names of Lithuanian basketball legends ( Marčiulionis), as well as characters from Planet of the Apes or Japanese manga cartoons. When all of this gets arranged in an exhibition space, covered with old carpets and surrounded with wreckage of a spaceship or a church, Duonis’s projects turn into total installations. The installation Sunday, presented this year at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius and later at the Cesis Art Festival (Latvia), occupied a space of almost 1000 square metres. Alongside these projects of titanic scale, individual elements of his installations, such as the figure of Soprano, sometimes choose a life of their own and perfectly exist as independent objects or sculptures in public space. Before his trip to Vienna Art Fair, Tony “personally” visited a few Lithuanian cities and towns (Druskininkai, Klaipėda) and even managed to get to the famous Palanga bridge, where he greeted the vacationers and watched the sun set over the Baltic Sea with his piercing gaze.