Kaarel Kurismaa. Blue Light Object. 1975. Collection of the Art Museum of Estonia.
Photo: Helen Melesk


The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design invites
to the international scientific conference
Just on Time. Current Trends
in Design Research in the Baltic Sea Region

at 10.00–16.30
The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design / Great Hall
Skarnu iela 10, Riga
LV-1050, Latvia
See the Agensa on the exposition>

Posted 6 December 2018

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On Tuesday, 11 December 2018, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga (Skarnur iela 10) will hold the international scientific conference Just on Time. Current Trends in Design Research in the Baltic Sea Region, where the invited art historians from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Poland will present papers about current themes related to the research of design history. Beginning at 10.00 am.
From 22 November 2018 to 27 January 2019, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (MDAD) is showing the exhibition JUST ON TIME. Design Stories About Latvia as well as its satellite project Exhibition “Form. Colour. Dynamics” – 40 (from 7 December 2018 to 17 February 2019), which display the main trends of development and the variety of Latvian design in a very intense and complex historical period, foremostly, the 20th century, when Latvia gained its national independence, underwent several occupations and has regained the status of a sovereign state. The material environment reflects all these epochal transformations and at the same time characterises the public demand and the understanding of utility, aesthetic ideals and many other questions related to material culture. Nevertheless – as both exhibitions demonstrate – the preservation of Latvian identity has remained unchangingly relevant both by preserving links with the heritage of traditional art, initially in the spirit of National Romanticism, as well as by creatively interpreting the tradition according to the latest trends of modern art and successfully making use of the possibilities offered by the latest technologies.
An international scientific conference Just on Time. Current Trends in Design Research in the Baltic Sea Region, organized by the Latvian National Museum of Art, will be an excellent opportunity for us to assess the evolution of design in the 20th century or certain separate phenomena not in the framework of a single national school, but in a broader culture-historical and regional context.
Working languages of the conference: Latvian and English, without translation.
All interested persons are invited to join the meeting!
Free entry.
Prior registration is not required.
The project has been realised as part of Latvia’s Centenary Programme.
Moderator: Ir?na Bužinska, Exhibition Curator of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design / Riga, Latvia
09.45–10.00        Registration of participants
10.00–10.20        Opening of the conference
Inese Baranovska,
Head of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design /
Latvian National Museum of Art / Riga, Latvia
10.20–10.50        Comparative Typology of National Romanticist Letter Design
Mg. arch., Mg. art. Gatis Vanags,
lecturer, Riga School of Design and Art / Riga, Latvia
In Latvia, National Romanticism found vivid expression in graphic design and letter design. It is difficult to find analogues in other countries for the forms of typefaces created by Latvian artists. Therefore, it is important to survey the characteristic features of national romanticist letter design and their separate subtypes.
The roots of one of the basic styles – “the geometric style”, whose brightest exponent is J?lijs Madernieks, are to be found in Latvian ornament. A significant influence has been left by “the naive style”, whose initiator and most visible author is Ansis C?rulis. Meanwhile, “the classical style” used the classical letter design with slight modifications and the addition of details of the Latvian ornament (Rihards Zarins, Karlis Sunins, Girts Vilks). Although runic stylisation was not particularly widespread in Latvia, several authors have created typefaces in this style (Jekabs Bine, Burkards Dzenis, Vilis Krumins).
Mg. arch., Mg. art. Gatis Vanags is graphic designer and photographer. Lecturer at the Riga School of Design and Art. In 2012 he graduated from the Department of Visual Communication at the Art Academy of Latvia. Gatis Vanags studies in the doctoral programme of the Art Academy of Latvia, working on the thesis Development of Letter Design in Latvia in the First Half of the 20th Century.
10.50–11.20        Art Deco Advertising Design and Posters. Bright, but Less Known Artists
Mg. art. Ilze Martinsone,
Director of the Latvian Museum of Architecture / Riga, Latvia
So far, there has been no significant interest in the posters of the interwar period. The posters created for the exhibitions of most outstanding Latvian painters and graphic artists are an exception. Nevertheless, the range of artistic quality of posters from the 1920s–30s is enormous – there are examples that should be highly regarded at least in the context of Eastern and Northern Europe, among them the works created by Sigismunds Vidbergs, Oskars Šteinbergs and Raimonds Sisko.
Researchers tend to have difficulties with attribution of authors of the posters, furthermore this field has the potential for interesting discoveries – the works of brothers Sheftelowitz, who went on to become the creators of the official graphic identity of Israel under the name of brothers Shamir, were only identified very recently.
Mg. art. Ilze Martinsone is a Director of the Latvian Museum of Architecture, exhibition curator, publicist. Researches aspects of decorative art, design and architecture in the interwar period of the 20th century, interested in Post-War Modernism in architecture and design.
11.20–11.50        Workshop Baltars Participation at the 1925 International Paris Exhibition: Myths and Reality
Mg. art. Dace Lavina,
Curator of the Latvian Ceramics and Porcelain Collection,
Museum of Decorative Arts and Design / Riga, Latvia
Founded in 1924 in Riga, the porcelain painting workshop Baltars brought together painters Romans Suta, Aleksandra Be?cova and graphic artist Sigismunds Vidbergs. The logo of the workshop – a black triangle with the name Baltars – has become a special sign of identity for Latvian design and an expression of the ideals of modern decorative art in the interwar period, embodying what is national and creatively synthesising both separate expressive means of Soviet Russian propaganda porcelain and influences of European Avant-garde art movements.
At the 1925 Paris Exhibition (and also later, in the 1937 Paris Exhibition) Baltars not only exhibited its production, but simultaneously took on important representative functions of the young state. The presentation will give an overview of the layout of the exhibition space, characterise the Latvian exposition at the Grand Palais, provide information about the catalogue and the list of awards of the participants, and show for the first time a photograph from the Latvian exposition with the works of Sigismunds Vidbergs as well as several previously unknown works by workshop Baltars, whose authorship has been confirmed in the course of research.
Mg. art. Dace Lavina earned her master degree at the Malmö University (Sweden) and is the Curator of the Latvian Ceramics and Porcelain Collection at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga. Dace ?avi?a researches the history of Latvian porcelain. She is currently working on a publication about the activity and production of workshop Baltars.
11.50–12.20        Industrial Design in Latvia in the Second Half of the 20th Century
Mg. art. Iliana Veinberga,
Chief Curator, Riga Porcelain Museum / Riga, Latvia
In the second half of the 20th century, Latvia was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In accordance with socialist ideology, planned economy was introduced in the USSR, while the circulation of resources was ensured by a centralised and carefully structured network of institutions and organisations. The presentation will position industrial design in the context of material and production culture of the Latvian SSR; characterise design’s mode of functioning and its changes in different periods as well as setting out the problems of interpretation of Soviet industrial heritage today.
Mg. art. Iliana Veinberga is art historian and researcher of design history. Among her academic interests are aspects of industrial art in Latvia in the late 20th century. At the Riga Porcelain Museum, Iliana Veinberga studies the production of porcelain in the territory of Latvia from the middle of the 19th century until today, and heads the Latvian part of the project Ceramics and Its Dimensions (2014–2018), part of the Culture sub-programme of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. She curates exhibitions, organises collaboration projects.
12.20–12.50        Looking from the Future.
40th Anniversary of the First Latvian Kinetic Art Show Form. Colour. Dynamics
Mg. art. Irena Buzinska,
Exhibition Curator, Museum of Decorative Arts and Design / Riga, Latvia
One of the ‘turning points’ in Latvian art of the 20th century is the exhibition Form. Colour. Dynamics made by artists Valdis Celms, Arturs Ri??is and Andulis Kr?mi?š, which took place exactly 40 years ago – at the turn of 1978/1979, inside the listed St. Peter’s Church in Riga. The exhibition can justifiably be considered the first legal representation of abstract art under the conditions of degrading Socialist Realism not only in Latvia but also in the Soviet Union, since the exhibition showed objects of kinetic art, which, admittedly, at the time were described using the term ‘unique design’. The multi-functionality of the kinetic objects demonstrated the search of artistic synthesis, interaction of architecture and sculpture, the authors’ experiments with the inter-relationships of light, colour and movement.
The presentation will look at the exhibition’s importance in the 21st century and provide lesser-known information about its content.
Mg. art. Irena Buzinska is art historian, Exhibition Curator at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga. Her academic interests focus on 20th century design history in Latvia, the history of Russian Avant-garde and 20th century early Modernism. In 2015, Ashgate Publishing (USA) published Ir?na Bužinska’s book Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism: A Charter for the Avant-Garde, co-authored with Z. S. Strother and Jeremy Howard.
12.50–14.00        Lunch Break
14.00–14.30        National Design Award of Latvia: Challenges and Conclusions
Mg. art. Ing?na Elere,
Professor, Department of Design, Art Academy of Latvia,
Creative Director of H2E Design Studio – the organiser of the National Design Award of Latvia / Riga, Latvia
In 2017, under the assignment of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, together with H2E Design Studio, the National Design Award of Latvia was created as an instrument to identify and highlight outstanding achievements in Latvian design, striving for higher design standards and reaching out to the wider audience.
It is clear that a designer has a significant social responsibility. The presentation will outline a broader set of questions that deal with the responsibility of design towards the environment in which we dwell, the things that we use. The Design Award fosters designers’ awareness not only about these but also other factors, because design offers an experience that in the long term affects every one of its users. The speaker sees design as an interdisciplinary instrument which conveys a certain message within a specific place and over a concrete period of time.
Mg. art. Inguna Elere is a Professor at the Department of Design at the Art Academy of Latvia, Creative Director of H2E Design Studio. She graduated from the Department of Decorative Design at the Riga Secondary School of Applied Arts, Department of Environmental Art at the Art Academy of Latvia. Works in environmental, interior and exhibition design, book and advertising design, pedagogy. Recipient of more than 20 Latvian and international accolades and awards for museum and exhibition design.
14.30–15.00        The Odyssey of Lithuanian and Baltic Design in London in 1968
at the Soviet Industry and Trade Exhibition
Dr. Karolina Jakaite,
design historian, postdoctoral researcher, Vilnius Academy of Arts,
Co-Founder of the Design Foundation / Vilnius, Lithuania
In August 1968, the Soviet Industry and Trade Exhibition was opened in London. It was the most important exhibition the Soviet Union held abroad in that year. Next to the main space-themed section, with undertones of Cold War rivalry, special attention was devoted to a presentation of ‘the Baltic republics’. The Lithuanian pavilion was created by architect Tadas Baginskas (1936). The main architect for Latvian section was Ivars Strautmanis (1932–2017) and Eha Reitel, Kärt Voogre and Vello Asi (1927–2016) for the Estonian pavilion.
During 10 years of the research most of the documents are collected about the Lithuanian pavilion. The story of the Lithuanian pavilion could be compared to a ‘cosmic odyssey’. The pavilion and the most progressive achievements in technology and unique design objects shown in it formed a kind of cosmic capsule, whose mission was interrupted by unforeseen political circumstances. Soviet tanks invaded Czechoslovakia on the night of 20 and 21 August, and calls for shutting down the exhibition altogether were voiced during protests in London. Due to these circumstances, and the fact that it was a display of exports, the pavilion did not receive proper acclaim at the time – inviting us to rediscover it 50 years later.
Dr. Karolina Jakaite is design historian and a postdoctoral researcher at the Vilnius Academy of Arts, co-founder of Design Foundation. In 2012 she defended her doctoral thesis on Lithuanian Graphic Design in 1950s–1970s: Between National and International. In 2016, journal Art in Translation (Taylor&Francis) published her article about Lithuanian Pavilion at London Exhibition in 1968. In 2018 Karolina Jakaite curated the exhibition about the 1968 London Pavilion at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius (co-curator Julijus Balcikonis). Now she is working on the book COLD WAR CAPSULE: Lithuanian Design in London in 1968 to be published in 2019 (by LAPAS and Design Foundation).
15.00–15.30        The Sound of Neverland:
the Work of Estonian Pioneer in Kinetic and Sound Art Kaarel Kurismaa
Mg. art. Ragne Soosalu,
freelance curator, art historian / Tallinn, Estonia
Kaarel Kurismaa (1939) is an exceptionally versatile creator in the Estonian art scene. His oeuvre combines sound, music, sculpture, painting, literature, stage design, monumental art and design in various ways. In Estonian art history, Kurismaa’s significance lies mostly in his pioneering work with kinetic art and with keeping its traditions alive. His idiosyncratic work serves as a foundation for Estonian sound and kinetic art.
Mg. art. Ragne Soosalu has worked a decade in the Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn and now continuing as a freelancer. She has graduated from Tartu University and from Estonian Art Academy with a MA degree, specializing in the history of kinetic and electronic art. In 2011 Ragne Soosalu co-curated and produced the first and biggest electronic art exhibition gateways. Art and Networked Culture. She has also curated exhibitions Out of Sync. Looking Back at the History of Sound Art (2013) and Silence d’Or. Ilmar Laaban and Experiments in Sound and Language. Together with Annika Räim she curated an exhibition Kaarel Kurismaa. Yellow Light Orchestra which is open at the Kumu Art Museum at this moment.
15.30–16.00        Permanent Display of Polish 20th Century Design
at the National Museum in Warsaw. Experience of the First Year
Mg. art. Kaja Muszynska,
Curator of the Design Collection,
National Museum in Warsaw / Warsaw, Poland
The National Museum in Warsaw since December 2017 has permanent display of Polish Design, showcasing the most important pieces from the mass-produced objects, such as popular TV and radio sets, furniture, textiles, and household appliances, as well as outstanding Polish designs that have only ever existed as blueprints, models and prototypes and were never freely available. However, these works testify to the great potential of Polish applied arts.
These highly inventive everyday more than 600 objects are presented in chronological order, punctuated by the most important artistic and historical events – from the Zakopane milieu, Krakow Workshops, ?ad Artists’ Cooperative and modernists in the Praesens group, through the post-war reconstruction period, Social Realism, the Polish thaw and post-1956 Modernism – when Polish applied arts developed with the greatest dynamism – to the finest examples of contemporary design.
A separate mention will be given to aspects of industrial design, design for children and ethnographic design. Speaker will give a brief overview of the Gallery of Modern Design. She will share her experience of how this display came to be and how it is contributing to increasing popularity of design and applied arts in Poland.
Mg. art. Kaja Muszynska is PhD candidate, one of the authors and curators of the Gallery of Modern Design at the National Museum in Warsaw. She works at the National Museum’s Modern Design Centre. Her academic interests include history of Polish ceramics, especially mass production of the second half of the 20th century.
16.00–16.30        Brief debate, conclusion of the conference
Latvian National Museum of Art / Museum of Decorative Arts and Design
State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia
Ir?na Buzinska, Exhibition Curator of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design /
Latvian National Museum of Art
Ph: (+371) 65 802006, E:

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