NOBA Nordic Baltic contemporary art platform

Until the end of the year Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Toruń presents an international exhibition SERENISSIMA EAST, highlighting Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian art from 1990 to today.

SERENISSIMA EAST is the title of the international exhibition of contemporary art, referring to history. Serenissima, i.e., the Most Serene, was the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Republic of Venice. This is a symbolic bridge in the field of semantics, but also related to the fact that we show contemporary art from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia first in Poland, but the organisers also hope to show it in Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn and in Venice during the 2024 Art Biennale.

The strength of this project is first and foremost the highest quality of the art presented, but also a symbolic reminder – a short history lesson for an international audience. Once Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia formed a single, powerful state, which was dismantled in the 18th century by its neighbours, and absent from maps throughout the 19th century, resurrected after 1918 as a series of nation-states. It was separated again after Yalta, absorbed by the USSR and, after the Solidarity revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall, regained its independence for a second time and finally, in 2004, was reunited in the family of the European Union. The historical aspect is essential in a symbolic sense, but rather secondary in terms of the substantive selection of artists and works from these and not other countries. By virtue of its roots, does Polish and Baltic culture and art share any features that would distinguish it from the art of other European regions? Rather not, and attempts to prove a similar thesis would be breakneck and rather pointless. Especially nowadays, in an age of globalisation and unlimited communication and exchange of ideas. It is more important to demonstrate the values of this art: universal, objective and not peculiar, regional values.

Serenissima groups together the achievements of artists recognised in their own countries and internationally, in many cases the most famous painters or animators, but for the audience of, for example, the Venice Biennale, their names, titles and national merits are of little importance. In the mass of the best artists and works from all over the world, which will come to Venice as usual, only quality and impact will count, not local distinctions. And this offers the best chance of success, as Venice is all about art and it does not matter whether an artist creates in New York, Cairo or Tallinn. A show of paintings, sculpture, prints, video art and animated films will be presented in an area of 2,000 m2, including a monumental column hall, and an English-language catalogue in 4 volumes will be published. Preparations have been underway since 2018. The curator, during study trips, selected the artists and held discussions with partners in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. All artists have approached the project very enthusiastically.

The exhibition was launched in October 2023 at CoCA in Toruń, which is the main organizer of the project. In April 2024, the organisers are planning a special edition of the exhibition during the Venice Art Biennale. And in 2024 and 2025, the project will be shown in Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn.

The presented painters include: Andrzej Wróblewski, an icon of Polish contemporary art, born in Vilnius, Jonas Gasiunas (LT), professor and long-time dean of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vilnius, one of the most original European painters, Kaido Ole (EST), professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tallinn, Kristaps Zarins (LV) and Andris Vitolins (LV), professors, respectively: rector and vice-rector of the Latvian Academy of Arts in Riga, Eugeniusz Minciel (PL), concrete abstractionist, classics: Jan Dobkowski (PL) and Tomasz Ciecierski (PL), Egle Ridigaite (LT), creating monumental paintings on canvases directly attached to the gallery wall, New York classic colorist Kestutis Zapkus (LT).

The exhibition also includes a collection of works by masters of the Polish poster school: Jan Lenica (PL) and Wojciech Fangor (PL), but also graphics by Guntars Sietins (LV) and Janis Murovskis (LV), professors of the Latvian Academy of Art in Riga.

The sculptors and creators of the installations are the New York artist Zilvinas Kempinas (LT), Nomeda and Gedyminas Urbonas (LT), who also creates in the USA, and Gleb Pantelejvs (LV) from Riga.

The creators of video art are classics well known internationally: Jonas Mekas (LT), a collaborator of Andy Warhol, one of the most important creators of the New York film avant-garde, and Józef Robakowski (PL), a photographer, filmmaker, theoretician, creator of Zero 61 and Film Form Workshop in Łódź. Films from various periods of their work will be shown.

The exhibition also presents the works of outstanding photographers: Andrzej Jerzy Lech (PL), Krzysztof Wodiczko (PL), both from New York, and the TTL group – three masters of Lithuanian photography: Gintautas Trimakas, Remigijus Treygys and Alvydas Lukys.

As animation is one of the leading artistic disciplines in Poland, winning at festivals and all competitions, the exhibition includes drawings and paintings on plaster boards in the form of installations, as well as classic films by Piotr Dumała (PL), including “Kafka”, “Crime and Punishment” and the Oscar-nominated “Hippos”.

The curator of the project is Krzysztof Stanisławski.

The national curators and coordinators are Arvydas Zalpys (LT) and Inese Rozentala (LV).