Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city, has been chosen as the European Capital of Culture 2022. The prestigious cultural title has enabled the city to significantly expand its otherwise broad cultural agenda and invite residents and visitors to over 1,000 events.
Exhibitions, Art Nouveau architecture and water shows
This spring, Kaunas will present exhibitions of world-famous artists and a cultural space made available to Ukrainian artists, thus becoming an updated, vibrant and cultural hub.
Visitors looking to make the most of their Kaunas city break this spring can get a taste of the city’s cultural life and art scene by visiting the following attractions:
European Capital of Culture; Events. Photo: AndriuAndrius Aleksandravičius
Yoko Ono, William Kentridge and Marina Abramovic
Kaunas has several first-class gems in its year-round event schedule. Art lovers rejoice: Japanese-American artist and director Yoko Ono will be honored in a large retrospective exhibition entitled “The Learning Garden of Freedom” from January to September. Conceptual artwork, space installations, experimental films and performance art will be on display at the Kaunas Picture Gallery. “Ex It”, an installation with 100 wooden coffins can be seen at the National Bank of Lithuania.
Yoko Ono: “Ex It”, installation. Photo: Martynas Plepys
William Kentridge – One of the world’s most influential contemporary artists is an honest and painfully sincere humanist. His work will be presented for the first time in Eastern Europe. The exhibition is an extremely important event for the city, but also for the artist, since Kentridge’s ancestors came from Kaunas.
The “That What We Not Remember” exhibition at the MK Čiurlionis National Art Museum – on display until November 30, 2022 – addresses the selective memory of humanity. The rejection of facts, history and memory as a means of self-preservation or as a means of propaganda is as common among people in Johannesburg and Rome as it is in Kaunas, says Kentridge. We all choose what we want to remember and what we expel from our memories. Kentridge hopes to fill these gaps in our memories and tell us about what we, intentionally or unconsciously, no longer remember.
In addition, one of the most famous Serbian performance artists in the world, Marina Abramović, will come to Kaunas to host her solo exhibition “Memory of Being” based on her retrospective “The Cleaner”. The exhibition will also take place in the Kaunas Picture Gallery from March to July and will be shown as a video installation. Abramović’s conceptual and performative works from 1960 to today, her iconic “Manifesto of an artist’s life” and her unique creative method are brought into focus.
The contemporary myth of Kaunas
One of the most important events listed on the Kaunas Spring cultural agenda is “The Confluence” – the second part of the “The Contemporary Kaunas Myth” trilogy, which includes almost all the cultural events – festivals, concerts, exhibitions, initiatives – of the year 2022 in summary. The event – scheduled for May – will take place at the confluence of the two largest Lithuanian rivers, Neris and Nemunas. This place is very special, it is said to be the birthplace of Kaunas.
Confluence of Neris and Nemunas. Photo: Andrius Aleksandravičius
The magic of the two rivers, the turbulent waters that surround the city, are staged in a water show. An innovative environmental design project is underway there and there will be acrobats, circus performers and music tours on the river who will get to know this place from the water.
The organizers of all events in the European Capital of Culture 2022 reacted spontaneously and decisively to the current situation in war-torn Ukraine with an additional cultural program. Lithuania as a whole shows its supportive solidarity. A cultural-creative space called “CulturEUkraine” in the Kaunas main post office building will be open at short notice. The building is one of the most important Lithuanian symbols of the interwar period. The premises will be made available to Ukrainian artists, organizations, communities and various initiatives with co-working areas, art therapy and numerous exhibition areas.
“We want the center to be a place that spreads Ukrainian voices and realities throughout Europe. Artists can use the center to continue activities that had to be suspended while maintaining relations with other Ukrainian and local artists, “said Virginija Vitkienė, director of Kaunas 2022.” Culture and creativity have been the constant beacons of hope over the times. darkest in human history, helping people to overcome all obstacles and also to lift the spirit ”.
The charm of Art Nouveau and Art Déco
Kaunas derives much of its charm from its streets and houses. Like almost all other cities, Kaunas has a lot to offer in the art deco and modernist architecture of the interwar period: buildings, museums, hotels and residential and industrial complexes. Only 44 modern objects are listed as European cultural heritage sites. The most respected testimonies of interwar architecture are the aforementioned central post office in Kaunas, the War Museum of Vytautas Magnus, the Romuva cinema and the Aleksotas funicular – one of the oldest funiculars in Europe, by the way. !
Kaunas main post office. Photo: Gintaras Cesonis
Visitors can learn all about the Art Nouveau period at the Art Déco Museum. It offers a unique and authentic experience to immerse yourself in the architecture, events of the era and enjoy the original Art Deco and Bauhaus furniture. Every detail seems to be pervaded by floral and modern shapes.
But the visual delights of the city don’t end with architecture or design. Street art is the buzzword as Kaunas boasts many giant graffiti murals, transforming the city into a stunning open-air art gallery.
Street art. Photo: Martynas Plepys
Kaunas in the spring
With Lithuania already lifting travel restrictions due to the pandemic for many international travelers, the mild spring weather and abundance of cultural events make Kaunas a tempting destination for a city break. For more information on all the celebrations of the European Capital of Culture 2022, must-see attractions and unique experiences in Kaunas, visit Lithuania Travel.
– Learn more about the Capital of Culture program (English)
– The program as PDF download (381 pages)
– More information Kaunas Picture Gallery Homepage (English)
– More information on the William Kentridge exhibition
– More information about Marina Abramovic: “Manifesto of the life of an artist” (PDF)
– Read more about modern architecture
Lithuania Travel is a national tourism development agency responsible for Lithuania’s tourism marketing and promotion, reporting to the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. Their strategic goal is to raise awareness of Lithuania as an attractive tourist destination and to promote domestic and domestic travel. The agency works closely with tourism companies and organizations, presenting Lithuanian tourism products, services and experiences on social and digital media, press travel, international travel fairs and B2B events.