Vilnius Poker at the MO Museum

“Anything is possible in Vilnius”, wrote Ričardas Gavelis in “Vilnius Poker”. This work is still considered as one of the most important texts of Vilnius, and on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Vilnius, it was visually reinterpreted at the MO Museum.

Exhibition: 22 April, 2023 – 28 January, 2024

View the exhibition virtually


Vilnius is not only the setting of the novel, but Vilnius itself becomes the protagonist of the novel. Thus, the exhibition “Vilnius Poker” at the MO Museum not only celebrated the history of Vilnius, but also took a critical look at the experience and future of the modern city. The character of Vilnius, created by Gavelis, was interpreted by director Oskaras Koršunovas and set designer Gintaras Makarevičius at the MO Museum. Vilnius was the capital of creative rebellion at the MO Museum from 22 April 2023.

The importance of Vilnius Poker for Vilnius

Vilnius Poker, published in 1989 by R. Gavelis, is the most translated Lithuanian novel about Vilnius and the best known one in Lithuania and abroad. It is not only a comprehensive deconstruction of the collapsing Soviet system, but also one of the first Lithuanian books to deal with the city and its people. Vilnius is one of the most important characters here. Through the prism of the city, the novel reveals the search for national and cultural identity. There is no single truth, no single storyline or answer, which is why Vilnius Poker can be regarded as one of the first works of postmodern Lithuanian literature.

The novel remains relevant today. It was a great opportunity for foreign visitors to look behind the Iron Curtain, and for Vilnius residents to see how the city has changed.

Literature has moved to the Exhibition Hall

It is no coincidence that R. Gavelis’ “Vilnius Poker” has been chosen as the starting point for the exhibition at the MO Museum on the occasion of Vilnius’ anniversary. The time depicted in the novel and the year of the novel’s publication are important factors in shaping of the exhibition.

The novel is set in the late Soviet era, which is the most vibrant period for the authors, who make up the majority of the MO’s collection. Therefore, the social, political and cultural topicalities of those times, as well as the life of the city of Vilnius and its inhabitants, were also reflected in the artists’ works. The collection of the Mo Museum also includes art that was ideologically unacceptable in the Soviet Union. This is also one of the many themes linking the collection to the exhibition.

In the exhibition, director Oskaras Koršunovas and artist Gintaras Makarevičius pose the question: what kind of character is Vilnius nowadays and what kind of character do we imagine it to be in the future? As in Vilnius Poker, there is no single right answer. The visitor to the exhibition has experienced one of the most remarkable phases in the history of the city of Vilnius, which has contributed greatly to the Vilnius we see today.

Exceptional creators for an exceptional exhibition

The exhibition is curated by one of the most prominent and innovative personalities in theatre, director Oskaras Koršunovas, and the exhibition architecture is designed by scenographer, artist Gintaras Makarevičius. Oskaras Koršunovas, a director renowned in Lithuania and the world for his critical, sharp and topical works, staged his first play “Ten būti čia” in Vilnius in 1990. This play opened a completely new phase in the history of Lithuanian theatre and reflected the reality of the time of R. Gavelis’ “Vilnius Poker” through the prism of absurdity.

Gintaras Makarevičius often remains a man behind the camera, observing real or fictional social groups. The artist pulls back the curtain of reality in the theatre, creating stage sets for performances. At the MO Museum, the duo of artists sought unconventional and inclusive solutions. Visitors to the exhibition thus became both spectators and participants. The exhibition-total installation showed Vilnius residents a city from the recent past, while visitors from abroad saw a face of Vilnius they had never seen before.

The opening of the exhibition “Vilnius Poker” at the MO Museum on 22 April 2023 was accompanied by the cultural festival “MOratonas”. It expanded the main theme of the exhibition with new contexts and layers. Visitors were treated to meetings, talks, guided tours, educational activities and other events. And if you were not able to see the exhibition in person in Vilnius, the MO Museum has also prepared a virtual tour of the exhibition, which can be viewed at any time.

Celebrating its fifth birthday, the MO Museum invited visitors to visit the renewed exhibition, which also included reflections by famous Vilnius residents: writer Kristina Sabaliauskaitė, historian Alfredas Bumblauskas, art historian and head of “Vilnius Museum” Rasa Antanavičiūtė, music journalist and editor-in-chief of LRT Pop Music Ramūnas Zilnys and composer Jonas Jurkūnas.

The exhibition team:

Director of the exhibition: Oskaras Koršunovas

Scenographer of the exhibition: Gintaras Makarevičius

Curators: Dovilė Barcytė, Algė Gudaitytė

Consultants: Jūratė Čerškutė, Laima Kreivytė, Gintautas Mažeikis, Kasparas Pocius, Almantas Samalavičius, Vladimiras Tarasovas

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