VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary is organizing an extensive non-commercial artistic program, which will enrich the fair experience for all visitors with presentations of a broad range of cutting edge art topics and discussions, exhibitions, artistic interventions, collaborations and much more. Today we will introduce you to the special project VIENNA Tribute: Tony Soprano (“Sunday” by Donatas Jankauskas) and the legendary Baltic institution the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius.
“Sunday” was also the title of a solo exhibition by the sculptor Donatas Jankauskas, which opened its doors at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius last February. It was hosted in the approximately 1000-square-meter Main Hall. A pair of sculptures from the show will be used to create a new constellation at VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary 2013. Fans of Lithuanian contemporary art will recognize the primitive ape-man and Tony Soprano (in the size of 5.5 m) – these characters keep returning in the works of the artist. The artist has taken a Tony Soprano character from one of the scenes of the TV show “The Sopranos” in which Tony Soprano comes out in the morning to fetch his newspaper from the lawn. The famous character is played by James Gandolfini (1961–2013), but Jankauskas’ sculpture doesn’t differentiate between the actor and the character Gandolfini is playing. The wealth of narratives unfolding in the installation can be summarized by keywords such as clash, brutality, aggression, subconsciousness, fantasy, whim, and animalistic elements. Jankauskas is consistently inconsistent: Despite a recurrence of motifs and their expressive symbolism, the meaning of the works remains fluid and difficult to pin down. (Curator: Kęstutis Kuizinas)
The Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) is the largest venue for contemporary art in the Baltic States, with an exhibition space of 2400 square meters. The CAC is a non-collection based institution committed to developing a broad range of international and Lithuanian exhibition projects as well as presenting a wide range of public programmes including lectures, seminars, performances, film and video screenings, and live new music events. The building was inaugurated in 1968 as the Art Exhibition Palace and was run as a branch of the Lithuanian Museum of Art until 1988. Since 1992, the CAC has been an independent institution principally funded by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. In 1997 the CAC was gifted a Fluxus Archive by the Silverman Collection (Detroit) in commemoration of Lithuanian Fluxus co-founder George Maciunas, that it keeps on permanent display.
The CAC organises approximately five/six large-scale exhibition projects per annum (including retrospectives, surveys, and international group shows) in conjunction with up to 15 smaller projects. The CAC is well known internationally as the home of the Baltic Triennial of International Art, one of the major contemporary festival exhibitions in Northern Europe. In 2005 the IX Baltic Triennial: BMW (Black Market Worlds) was positively reviewed by international specialist press. And in 2009 the X Baltic Triennial: Urban Stories was the lynchpin contemporary art event in the national program of ‘Vilnius – European Capital of Culture’. In 2012 ‘Mindaugas Triennial’ turned into 12 day event focused exclusively on performance and film, where the contributions of artists were channelled through a radically minimized vessel – one human being.
Since 2005, the CAC has produced the magazine CAC Interviu: a bilingual (Lithuanian & English) interview based publication that focuses on the Baltic region while providing a view on topical events that impact on art produced everywhere. In 2009 the CAC launched the CAC Reading Room – a dynamic space for reading, talking, and the presentation of social, educational and contemporary art events designed by the Amsterdam-based collective of architects and designers Anouk Vogel, Johan Selbing, and Bart Guldemond. In 2012 the CAC has expanded its activity by opening a new film space – the CAC Cinema, dedicated to presenting the searches for a new film language and works by authors from different continents. The CAC Cinema seeks to provide a ground for institutional dialogue between arts and film.
The CAC also produces exhibitions abroad. In 2001, 2007 and 2011 the CAC was the commissioning institution of the Lithuanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale with the artists Deimantas Narkevicius, and Gediminas & Nomeda Urbonas, Darius Miksys respectively. In 2009 it presented a Frieze Project in London, in 2012 – a project ‘Black Pillow‘ in the Liverpool Biennial. The CAC has also collaborated with institutions in the Czech Republic, Germany and Estonia to present the touring project FLUXUS East (2007–2008), and has been a partner institution, co-producer, and venue in the international exhibitions ‘Holiday In’ (2007) ‘On Mobility’ (2006), ‘Populism’ (2005), and ‘Who If Not We…?’ (2004–2005).
Tony To Go – Austria
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 program. 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 meters. 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.
Donatas Jankauskas was born in 1968 in a small town called Seda, Lithuania. Jankauskas belongs to the generation of artists that emerged after the reclamation of Independence at the beginning of the 1990s. He works in different media (sculpture, installation, video), yet, unlike many of his contemporaries, he retains strong continuity of the themes in his work. His photographs and sculptures decorate the interiors of several Vilnius’s bars and cinemas, and the masks created by him have played their role in the most famous plays of Oskaras Koršunovas. From the mid-nineties, the massive zoomorphic figures created by Jankauskas temporarily transformed several streets and buildings. The projects and concerts he arranged with artists’ group DDD (Donatas Jankauskas, Dainius Liškevičius, Darius Bastys) were very noticeable for some time in the art world. Jankauskas’ first personal exhibition in the CAC took place in 1999; it was ironically named “Retrospection” and it consistently presented all of the artist’s works created by then, including personal letters and unfinished sketches. One of his most iconic cycles “Marčiurlionis” (named after a famous basketball player, to invoke the romantic myth of a genius in the XXI century) was later also presented there. It was a ritual-like attempt to fuse two different biographies (his own and that of the Classical Master) in the artist’s personality. Donatas Jankauskas’ trademark is an ape-man. The ape-men in his works usually become the characters of pompous or sentimental scenes. Their presence transforms these scenes into something curious.
Selected solo exhibitions: “Retrospection”, the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, 1999; “The Day”, the CAC, Vilnius, 2006; “Sunday”, the CAC, Vilnius, 2013.