A Room of the Masterpiece. Frans Hals's Evangelists from the Odessa Museum of Western and Eastern Art

Frans Hals. St Luke. Circa 1625. Oil on canvas. Odessa Museum of Western and Eastern Art
Frans Hals. St Matthew. Circa 1625. Oil on canvas. Odessa Museum of Western and Eastern Art

Imagine a situation where you have the opportunity to meet someone with an incredibly interesting, colourful background and a unique education, but you only have… twelve seconds. In this time, they must introduce themselves, tell you a little about themselves and, most importantly, you must make as deep a connection with them as possible. 

 

What can be achieved in this amount of time? 

 

‘My name is Frans, I’m a painter from Antwerp, but I really like Harlem and its peo…’, and this is where the communication has to stop. What a frustrating experience and what an infinitely strange, seemingly contrived circumstance!  

 

However, it is not entirely a fantasy. A study by sociologists has shown that visitors at museum exhibitions spend an average of 12–15 seconds on each artwork. Just two or three seconds go by glancing at the work itself, and the other ten or so are used to quickly study the contents of its label – the artist, title, technique, country, and year. Well, perhaps the more favoured works receive a little more time – about 20–30 seconds. My colleagues and I have seen cases where, in a room full of great works from the Baroque period, visitors are just flying through the exhibits, running in, taking a quick look around, then running along. In 30 seconds, they have seen not just one work, but the whole room! 

 

Running is the destiny of our age – English sociologist Anthony Giddens warned us of a ‘runaway world’ back at the end of the last millennium, even before smart devices and social networks existed. Is it indeed possible to stop running and scrolling, even when stopping seems absolutely necessary? 

 

Photo by Gintarė Grigėnaitė

The Lithuanian National Museum of Art offers you, dear visitors, a unique opportunity to meet a work of art under special conditions – in the Room of a Masterpiece (which we initially even thought of calling ‘The One-Artwork Theatre’), designed for this purpose by a large creative team over a long period of time, where the work of art is given an opportunity to present itself and give a performance, not unlike an actor, personally to a single visitor. To gently take the dear viewer by the hand and guide them out of the bustling street of burdens and never-ending daily tasks, out of the space of bad, horrifying news, and into the space of the slow, calmly-paced, yet rich, intellectually stimulating, and slightly magical art experience. There is no museum space like this anywhere in the world – it is an entirely Lithuanian creation. To maintain the mystery and the element of surprise, we will refrain from saying anything more about what awaits you in the Room of a Masterpiece, but we have no doubts that your experience will be unforgettable. 

 

It was as if fate itself suggested the candidate for the first masterpiece presentation – one of the most famous painters of all time, the Dutch Golden Age genius Frans Hals and his Evangelists. We had long thought of asking our dear colleagues from the Odesa Museum of Western and Eastern Art to lend us these works, but Russia’s aggression against Ukraine changed everything – we were no longer borrowing but actually evacuating the works from a war zone. We are infinitely grateful that the museum’s director, Ihor Poronyk, and his colleagues trusted us, handing these priceless masterpieces into the temporary care of our museum. At the same time, it became a unique opportunity for the Lithuanian public and visitors to Lithuania to see the works of Frans Hals, one of the greatest portraitists of all time, in a very up-close, solitary setting. 

 

Stop for a moment. An important experience awaits you. 

Director General of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art 

Dr Arūnas Gelūnas 

Radvila Palace Museum of Art,
24 Vilniaus st, LT-01402, Vilnius, Lithuania
+370 5 250 5824