The Exhibition “Art and Money”. Dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of Lithuanian National Currency – the Litas
The exhibition provides a number of engaging stories: visitors will find out about the sculptor Juozas Zikaras’ relations with President Antanas Smetona and Jonas Basanavičius, will learn why the first litas banknotes were called "blue-eyed motleys", why the loan notes were sold under the "forced" conditions, what the invention of the pantograph meant for the money industry, and will follow the path an artist had to take to turn his project into money.
In fact, there was a direct connection between the interwar art and money: the most prominent artists Adomas Galdikas, Adomas Varnas, Juozas Zikaras, Antanas Žmuidzinavičius applied the same symbols and allegories in money design and in their works of art – painting, graphics and sculpture. The curators of the exhibition, therefore, had made every effort to find links between the circulation of these views and images in the works of art and the design of money and securities.
But the exhibition is not just about that...
The litas is presented as a sign of Independence. We still remember the last strokes of the clock on 31 December 2014 when we had waved goodbye to the Lithuanian currency – the Litas, and welcomed the Euro. But, for how many years have we been "converting" euros into litas in our minds? And what great number of people have never had an opportunity to hold a litas in their hands?
Today that a threat of destroying people and symbols of nations’ identity is just around the corner this historical topic becomes once again especially relevant, as the exhibition presents the signs of our Independence that allowed us to survive, not to surrender. In the exhibition – the litas coins and banknotes and works of art represent the two periods of Lithuania’s Independence, they feature images that reflected the nation’s pride between the two World Wars, and images that upheld the dignity of Lithuanians during the Soviet years.
The Litas becomes a sign of silent resistance. In Sovietized Lithuania there was a special respect for the symbols of interwar Lithuania. A silver coin with the profile of President A. Smetona, like the dearest relic, was handed over to younger generations and stored in the most secret place at home, as everybody knew that the possession and distribution of such “bourgeois” attributes could earn “a trip to the white bears’ land”.
The Litas manifests itself as a sign of national identity.“Dreamland Lithuania”, “Heroes – Inspirors of the Nation”, “Symbols of Land the Nourisher”,“Builders of the State” – these themes fuse in the works of art as well as in money, suggesting that the tendency to romanticise and idealise was essential for the preservation of national identity. The rake, the ploughman, the spinner and the sower became symbols of the land the noutisher and abundance. The paradox of history is that these images of the official style of the inter-war period became symbols of freedom and of our silent resistance under Soviet totalitarianism..
In 1990, after the restoration of Lithuania's independence and its monetary unit, a large part of the inter-war symbols found their right place on a new currency. Nowadays, the apolitical-looking banknotes and coin designs featuring the coats of arms of Kaunas, Vilnius and Klaipėda, were very sensitive issues in the interwar years, because people were “torn apart and distributed”, these images supported the idea of the territorial integrity of the state. Even landscapes depicting the seaside were perceived as part of political art, reminiscent of the occupied Klaipėda region.
Curators of the exhibition: Daina Kamarauskienė, Genovaitė Vertelkaitė-Bartulienė
Architects: Rasa Butiškytė, Saulius Valius
Graphic design: Juozapas Švelnys, Jonas Vaikšnoras
Partner: Lithuanian National Museum of Art, Vytautas the Great War Museum
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