Built just before the Restoration of Independence of Lithuania, the M. Žilinskas Art Gallery is one of the most important examples of postmodernist architecture in Lithuania. It was designed by Saulius Juškys, Kęstutis Kisielius and Eugenijus Miliūnas to house the art collection of Mykolas Žilinskas, an international businessman and man of mystery.
After years of living (and doing all sorts of businesses) outside occupied Lithuania, Žilinskas donated his vast collection to Lithuania - in fact, it was the Kaunas Picture Gallery on K. Donelaičio street that had to house it in the first place, but it eventually became too small. So, it was decided to build a new and more spacious gallery next to Soboras. The new gallery was opened in 1989 and is a department of National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art.
Today, the gallery showcases some of the Žilinskas collection as well as some of the oldest collections of the museum. The permanent exhibitions present ancient art (a collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts including colourful death-masks, sarcophagus painting, a mummy and a unique papyrus fragment from “The Book of the Dead”), applied art of the 17th to 20th centuries (examples of Chinese and Japanese porcelain as well as those of the best known European porcelain manufactures; a faience collection with examples from German, Austrian, Russian and other countries’ manufactures and examples of 19th to 20th century expressive art porcelain, faience, glass and furniture, in spirit of Art Nouveau and Art Déco) and European fine art of 16th to 20th centuries (a wide variety of styles, periods, artists and schools, varying from the late Renaissance, baroque and classicism to romanticism, symbolism, impressionism, Art Nouveau and art trends from the second half of 20th century, including works by Jusepe de Ribera, Arnold Böcklin and the only only example of the work of Peter Paul Rubens in the Baltic states).
Ugarenes sarcophagus lid of the Deir-de-Bachris. Third Intermediate Period-Late Period. 7th century B.C. Property of National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art.
Tea set, Johann Friedrich Bottger (1682–1719), Germany, Meissen. 1710 – 1715. Property of National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art.
Ugo Nespolo, Andante. 1999. Metal, oil, 100x70 cm. Property of National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art.
Part of the gallery is used for temporary exhibitions by various curators, including festivals like Kaunas Photo or Kaunas Biennial. In November, you can visit an international exhibition of contemporary art by Kaunas in Art festival and a small yet inspiring exhibition celebrating the 100 years of Finnish design.
On November 9-11, you have a chance to attend the international premiere of contemporary dance performance “Commensurate to be with”, choreographed by Liza Baliasnaja. More on it here.
There’s also a cinema hall inside the gallery, but the screenings are scarce. In the basement, where a gallery café once was, is now one of the hippest electronic music venues in the country called Lizdas. The latter sometimes collaborate with the gallery for events that don’t exactly fit the description of a ‘dance music party’, and we surely recommend attending one of those.
The M. Žilinskas Art Gallery is open every day except Monday. The usual hours are 11 am – 5 pm; it closes at 7 pm on Thursdays.