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A Latvian centenary exhibition, “Our Museum. The State Museum of Art – 100”, will be held at the Art Museum RIGA BOURSE in Riga (Doma laukums 6). The exhibition is a dedication to an important cultural institution from the first period of Latvian independence and its employees. The collection, which they created and preserved, continues its existence today in the Latvian National Museum of Art’s collections, expositions and research.

There are almost 160 years apart between the first known painting Portrait of Helēna Cimze (1851) by Jānis Staņislavs Roze and the print Starfield (2010) by Latvian-American artist Vija Celmiņa. Both vastly different artworks are part of the timeless dimension of the visual arts. Both works embody the mission of the hundred-year-old State Museum of Art (SMA) and its descendant the Latvian National Museum of Art – to collect, preserve and popularize the best that the artists have created.


On 5 March 1941, the colleagues of the former Director of the State Museum of Art Burkards Dzenis presented him an album with photographs of museum expositions and words of gratitude for his achievements over twenty-two years of activity. This album became one of the main visual and research keys when opening the door to the period between the two world wars and in discussing episodes from the museum’s history.


The State Museum of Art was founded on 15 March 1920 and was opened for the public on 27 May 1922 at the Riga Castle. This museum played an important part in the cultural policy and art life of the newly established Latvian state. The State Museum of Art worked parallel to the Riga City Museum of Art which was opened in 1905 and since 1919 its Director was painter Vilhelms Purvītis. During the inter-war period two art museums – city museum and state museum, were working in Riga.


The State Museum of Art was created with the principal aim of supporting and popularizing national art, but the historical situation determined that at the very beginning the foreign art collection also ended up at the museum with new artworks added to throughout the years. The Latvian art collection in the exhibition is represented by classics and contemporaries of that time such as Jūlijs Feders, Kārlis Hūns, Janis Rozentāls, Teodors Zaļkalns, Jāzeps Grosvalds, Aleksandra Beļcova, Ludolfs Liberts, Kārlis Padegs, and others. The foreign art collections are shown with several acquisitions including Chinese and Japanese art objects which were donated to the museum in the 1920s by Latvians living in the Far East; a substantial gift of Belgium art as an example of international diplomacy at the beginning of 1930s; Danish glass and ceramics; Western European porcelain and silverware, as well as Russian art examples.The work of the State Museum of Art is depicted also through photography, archive records, books, and catalogues.


The exhibition is a reminder of selfless and erudite people with a museum-building mission: the initiator and Director of the museum, sculptor Burkards Dzenis, the Director’s Assistant, founder of the museum library, painter Konrāds Ubāns and long-term Clerk-Secretary, writer Dāvids Vecaukums.


In 1941, under the Soviet regime, a restructuring of the Latvian museum system took place along with the change in political power. After World War II, the Latvian SSR State Museum of Western European Art’s collection, which brought together foreign artworks from the State Museum of Art, the Riga City Museum of Art, the Riga City History Museum, the University of Latvia Museum and others, was opened at Riga Castle in the premises of the abolished State Museum of Art. Later renamed the Latvian SSR Museum of Foreign Art, then the Museum of Foreign Art, it continued to operate at Riga Castle until 2010 when as a result of museum reorganization, it was included within the structure of the Latvian National Museum of Art. The Art Museum RIGA BOURSE is the direct legacy of the Museum of Foreign Art.


Masterpieces of the former State Museum of Art will be marked with special indications also in the permanent display of the Latvian National Museum of Art (Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1, Riga), the Art Museum RIGA BOURSE and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Skārņu iela 10, Riga).

Gallery name: RIGA BOURSE

Address: Doma laukums 6, Riga

Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10:00 - 18:00

Open: 05.09.2020 - 13.12.2020