Lithuania gives over billboards to help artists sell works during the pandemic

In the capital of Vilnius, outdoor displays of works by local artists aims to boost the arts sector and tourism

Egle Ulcickaite, Dzageris (2020) on display on a bus stop billboard in the city Photo: Courtesy of Saulius Ziura

The coronavirus pandemic has led artists across the globe to find new and inventive ways to exhibit and sell their work. In an effort to help, the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius has offered 100 outdoor billboards to display works for sale by 100 different Lithuanian artists, creating a vast open-air art gallery. The project has been funded by the city in partnership with the outdoor advertising operator JCDecaux Lietuva.

The three-week exhibition, Art Needs No Roof, was announced by the Municipality of Vilnius last month, and within days over 500 submissions were received with applicants ranging from painters and sculptors to video artists. Works that did not make the shortlist are available in a virtual gallery and all are for sale, with prices and contact details listed online. There is also a map to help visitors navigate through the city's exhibition.

As galleries have been closed during lockdown, which in Lithuania lasted for three months until mid-June, artists have been unable to easily share new work. The outdoor exhibition is designed to bring much-needed exposure and a financial boost for creatives. “This project is a platform for promoting the artists,” says Inga Romanovskiene, the director of the official tourism agency Go Vilnius. “We hope that it will be one more step for them in pursuing their future careers.”

"The quarantine was a special time for me as an artist," says Zivile Zveruna, a digital artist participating in the show. "It was a time of reflection, when you can stop to think deeper about our society and the role that art plays in it. The pandemic made us find new ways to experience culture."

The public response to the project has also been positive. “People are interested to learn more about art just by walking the streets of the city,” says Romanovskiene. “High interest has been shown in the large number of people who visited the project’s website,” which she says had more than 8,000 hits in the first week.

In May, the city of Vilnius also held Mask Fashion Week, which encouraged people to show off their creative face masks by wearing them while travelling on a specified route through the city or by submitting photographs for billboards. “All of these initiatives put together, including Art Needs No Roof, have helped turn the city’s public spaces into an even livelier space than before the pandemic,” says Romanovskiene.

Art Needs No Roof, Vilnius, until 26 July