Vilnius Poker at the MO Museum

“Everything is possible in Vilnius,” wrote Ričardas Gavelis in his renowned novel Vilnius Poker. To celebrate the 700th anniversary of Vilnius, the MO Museum has undertaken the impressive mission of portraying the novel, which is one of the most important works in the history of Lithuanian literature.

Exhibition: 22 April, 2023 – 28 January, 2024

The novel takes place in Vilnius, but the city itself is the protagonist. That’s why the exhibition – an immersive Vilnius Poker installation at the MO Museum – is celebrating both the history of Vilnius and taking a critical look at the experience and future of the modern city.

This year, Oskaras Koršunovas, the artistic director of the OKT Theatre, and Gintaras Makarevičius, the architect/set designer of the exhibition, will interpret the character of Vilnius presented in the novel while looking for a unique harmony in a combination of the artworks from the MO Museum collection, as well as artworks created and borrowed especially for this occasion. Discover Vilnius as the capital of creative rebellion at the MO Museum!

The importance of Vilnius Poker for Vilnius

In 1989, Ričardas Gavelis published the cult novel Vilnius Poker, which became the world’s most famous Lithuanian novel about Vilnius and the most translated Lithuanian book. This novel depicts the complete deconstruction of the collapsing Soviet system and is one of the first Lithuanian books examining the city and its citizens. Vilnius is one of the most important characters here, as the search for national and cultural identity is revealed through the point of view of the city. You will not find one truth, one storyline or one answer here. Thus, Vilnius Poker can be considered one of the first works of postmodern Lithuanian literature.

The novel remains relevant today – for the Western world it is a great opportunity to look behind the Iron Curtain, and for residents of Vilnius it’s a chance to see how the city has changed.

Literature moves to the exhibition hall

Ričardas Gavelis’ novel is the starting point deliberately chosen for the MO Museum’s Vilnius Poker exhibition. The era depicted in the novel and its year of publication are two important factors in shaping the exhibition.

The novel’s main timeline – the late Soviet era – is when the artists who make up the largest part of the MO Museum’s collection created their most vibrant works. The social, political and cultural issues of that time, and the life of the city and citizens of Vilnius, are also reflected in the works of artists. Director Oskaras Koršunovas and artist Gintaras Makarevičius ask the viewer, “What kind of character is Vilnius today and what kind of image do we envision in the future?” Just like in Vilnius Poker, there is no right answer. Exhibition visitors will experience one of the brightest periods in the history of Vilnius, which has strongly contributed to Vilnius as we see it today.

Exclusive creators for an exclusive exhibition

The exhibition has been deliberately entrusted to director Oskaras Koršunovas and artist Gintaras Makarevičius. Oskaras Koršunovas, a famous Lithuanian theatre director known in the world for his critical, sharp and topical works since 1990, staged his first performance of “There to be Here” in Vilnius and started a new chapter in the history of Lithuanian theatre. He reflected the reality of the time depicted in Ričardas Gavelis’ Vilnius Poker through the absurd.

Gintaras Makarevičius often remains a person behind the scenes, watching real or imaginary groups of society on camera. However, the veil of reality is also lifted in the theatre where he creates scenographies for performances. The artistic duo have sought unconventional, inclusive solutions for the Vilnius Poker exhibition, inviting visitors to become spectators as well as participants. The immersive installation shows residents of Vilnius a city from the recent past and reveals the unprecedented face of the city to visitors from abroad.

The opening of the Vilnius Poker exhibition at the MO Museum on 22 April will be accompanied by the opening MOraton Festival, bringing an additional layer to the exhibition theme. The festival is full of educational activities, talks and events. It’s also going to be possible to visit the exhibition even if you cannot come to Vilnius – a virtual exhibition tour will make it accessible from anywhere.

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