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The Contemporary Art Museum - in a Century Old Building


Paradoxical and unbelievable? The correct answer is: far-sighted and reasonable. This is the issue of the Contemporary Art Museum, of the erection and arrangement of which Astrīda Rogule, head of the holding formation department of the Contemporary Art Museum, informed guests in the former Riga’s first Thermal Power Plant’s building on 30 November, 2006, the name day of Andrejsala.


The former Thermal Power Station for the first time established the contact with culture in May 2006, when it housed the display Borders of international art project Sense In Place. Thorough research in order to adjust the building that had been designed and constructed 100 years ago to meet industrial purposes, for the Contemporary Art Museum has been in progress for several months.


The author of the museum design is the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who, in accordance with the design assignment prepared by the international expert committee offers to establish a modern multifunctional building. Along with artwork displays in the museum, it is envisaged to provide a considerable area for shops, restaurants and conference halls. The design also allows for movie sessions, theatre performances, concerts and other performances to be held in the museum. That is to say, the former Thermal Power Plant will get the second wind – it will be made into the centre for contemporary culture and art.


A good piece of news for admirers of historical objects is that the building of the Thermal Power Plant will not be pulled down, the project offers that it will be enveloped in glass cases. “Just as an insect in amber, the old building will be melted into a new one”, this is what Jānis Dripe, the chief architect of the city of Riga said after having familiarized with the offer of the Dutch architect. As Rem Koolhaas told the journalists last year, the glass annex turned towards the Daugava would be accommodated to a broad, light restaurant, but next to it, there could be located some stores. The architect has suggested that the darkest premises in the former Thermal Power Plant could be used as a cinema theatre or a video library. It is planned to locate museum workshops and holding storage facilities in the central part of the complex, and visitors would see those through the glass wall. The second glass annex would be fully made available to art exhibitions organisers. When looking at the museum design and blueprints, one can but agree with the Minister of Culture Helēna Demakova, who expressed her opinion last spring when she was interviewed by the daily Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze saying that the Contemporary Art Museum on Andrejsala has chances to become the modern Tate Modern Art Gallery of Europe.


Ms. Solvita Krese, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art, in her turn admitted to the correspondent of the magazine, Mr. Aigars Dāboliņš, that “there now is a contemporary art museum in all respectable European capitals”. “There is a museum like that in Tallinn, one is being erected in Vilnius, and we are here just lagging behind. Many people, when they get acquainted with our art of the 80s, are shocked at the fact that while we have such excellent artworks, we don’t have a place to display them. I really have to admit that there is not a place like that here. Those great works are stored in the artists’ sheds and are getting ruined. Artists have to wait for three years to get a chance to have an exhibition held in the State Museum of Art, or else they put up with all kinds of strange and inappropriate places to display their works. The beginning of this century in Europe saw a boom of new museums. Museums have been mushrooming all over the continent. The functions of such museums have not been just to display artworks: they have also been the platform for the intercommunication and discussions. They have cafés there, all kinds of children’s corners, playgrounds. Museum people, though, are critical about the fact that museums are becoming a place for pastime – more entertainment and less art. It is surely a problem issue, but it is not that dangerous. After all, artists are not lonely geniuses, who create art gratia artis! Art should be linked with life, with people, for whom it is created”, Ms. S. Krese said for the magazine.


Along with the issues of construction, the International Holding expert committee is considering how to fill the new building. The committee in Latvia is represented by Helēna Demakova, Astrīda Rogule, Leonards Laganovskis, the chief artist of the city of Riga, Raitis Šmits, representative of new media cultural centre RIXC, Ernests Bernis, chairman of the board of the bank Aizkraukles Banka etc. The Committee cooperates with foreign specialists such as Dr. Raminta Jurenaite (Lithuania), Sirje Helme (Estonia, KUMU museum director), professor Mareta Jaukuri (Finland) and Norbert Weber (Germany, owner of the NEMO gallery).


Links to Museums of Contemporary Art around the Globe

For additional reading, follow this link to the article 'Discussion Held on Future Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art'.


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