Founded in 1933 as Vilnius City Museum, The Lithuanian National Museum of Art is currently the biggest national establishment which preserves, investigates and displays pieces of art of historical and artistic value. The exhibition halls of the museum display Lithuanian and foreign works of fine and applied art. The museum has accumulated and displays the wealth of the national folk art. Diverse Lithuanian and foreign artists are featured at temporary exhibitions. The museum also conducts various educational programmes.
With the lifting of the ban on Lithuanian press Lithuanian intellectuals became anxious about the art. In 1907 the first exhibition was organized, and eight of them were held before the begining of World War I. After each exhibition some exhibits were given to Lithuanian Art Society. More and more pieces of art were collected, so the hope to establish an art museum was being cherished. Many concrete efforts were made in order to accomplish the plan – means for buildings were accumulated, pictures and carvings purchased, photos and documents collected. But the war had hindered the whole work.
After the war intellectuals again started enlivening the life of the art. The intellectuals in Vilnius urged certain state institutions to take care of the valuables of art that were nationalized by Bolsheviks in 1918. These valuables had to fall into the hands of cultural workers. Unfortunately, the history of Vilnius and Vilnius land between World War I and World War II did not favor Lithuanian national culture.
In 1933, Vilnius Magistracy decided to establish a City Museum. The displays were stored in various places and looked after as far as possible, but visitors were never received. In 1940 the Museum moved to the old Town Hall building. In April, 1941 first exhibitions were organized in the halls of the Museum which was already called Vilnius State Art Museum.
The Museum took over collections of Vilnius artistic and scientific societies as well as the nationalized pieces of art. According to the later established order, pieces of art acquired by commissions of Ministry of Culture for state means were to be distributed among museums. This is how the present art collection was made up. Workers of the Museum themselves have contributed to the exposition. From post-war villages they collected the best examples of Lithuanian folk art. Creations by artists of emigration and their art collections are constantly added to the storages of the Museum.