Lithuania has two national museums of fine arts, a network of galleries established by the State, municipalities, non-governmental organisations (creative unions and public organisations), higher education institutions, and galleries established at private initiative. According to the data of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, there are currently over 50 galleries functioning in Lithuania, but the number is likely to be much higher.
The Lithuanian Art Museum has 9 divisions that work as separate galleries or museums in Vilnius: Vilnius Picture Gallery, National Gallery of Art, Clock and Watch Museum, Museum of the Radvilas Palace, Vytautas Kasiulis Art Museum, Pranas Domšaitis Gallery, Museum of Applied Arts and Design, Palanga Amber Museum, Pamarys Gallery. Founded in 1933 as Vilnius City Museum, the Lithuanian Art Museum is currently the biggest national establishment that 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 and feature temporary exhibitions of Lithuanian and foreign artists. The museum also has a collection of the national folk art.
Established in 1921, the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art has turned into one of the oldest and largest art museums in Lithuania. The Museum has 11 divisions that operates in Kaunas: M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, M. Žilinskas Art Gallery, Kaunas Picture Gallery, A. Žmuidzinavičius Creations and Collections Museum, Devils Museum, Historical Presidential Palace of the Republic of Lithuania, A. and P. Galaunė House, L. Truikys and M. Rakauskaitė Memorial Museum, J. Zikaras Memorial Museum, V. K. Jonynas Gallery, M. K. Čiurlionis Memorial Museum.
The main state institution of contemporary art in Lithuania is the Contemporary Art Centre established by the Ministry of Culture. The Centre is one of the largest contemporary art venues in the Baltic region, it hosts a diverse programme of exhibitions and events dedicated to contemporary art, aiming to enrich the cultural life of the city and the local and international discourse on contemporary art.
Visual arts and crafts are also featured in galleries and exhibition centres of creative unions. Lithuanian Artists’ Association (LAA) has 1402 members that belong to the sections of Sculpture, Ceramics, Graphics, Watercolour, Textile, Painting, Applied Arts, Scenography, Monumental Art, etc. LAA has established 7 galleries in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda and Panevėžys and set up 5 divisions of production: Ltd “Vilnius art” (Vilniaus dailė), and non-profit organisations LAA’s Publishers “Artseria”, the Centre of Sculpture and Stained Glass, the Centre of Vilnius Graphic Arts, and the House of Artists (“Dailininkų namai”) in Palanga.
Lithuanian Photographers Association has about 300 members. It runs four galleries in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda. The professional Folk Artists’ Association has about 2000 members and runs a gallery and antique shop in Vilnius.
In 2009, Lithuanian Art Gallerists’ Association organised the first visual arts fair – “ARTVILNIUS’09” – that became the greatest annual event dedicated to the contemporary visual arts in Lithuania. ArtVilnius takes place in the Exhibition and Congress Centre LITEXPO and every year has over 23 000 visitors, with about 65 art galleries from a dozen or so countries participating (Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, and France). The applications of galleries wishing to participate in the art fair are reviewed and selected by a jury made up of art critics and art market experts, thereby ensuring the professionalism of the galleries at the fair.
Creative unions of visual arts and crafts, individual artists and their organisations can apply for funding to Lithuanian Council for Culture. The Council has special funding programmes for visual arts, traditional arts and crafts, combined arts and interdisciplinary arts. Funding in each of these programmes are given for the following activities: 1) professional creation and its dissemination in Lithuania and abroad; 2) events; 3) accumulation of information (archiving, documentation) and its dissemination; 4) publishing; 5) professional criticism and analysis; 6) networking and mobility; 7) co-production. In 2018, the Lithuanian Council for Culture allocated 1 357 437 EUR for 130 projects in the visual arts programme, 863 680 EUR for 146 projects in the traditional arts and crafts programme, 1 449 017 EUR for 157 projects in the combined arts programme, 838 405 EUR for 62 projects in the interdisciplinary arts programme.
The Lithuanian Council for Culture also awards grants for individual artists. Grants (up to 3600 EUR) of this programme are allocated for activities that improve professional skills. In 2018, the council awarded grants to 85 visual artists, 66 interdisciplinary artists, 21 photographers, and 23 folk artists.
Municipalities fund visual arts through their programmes. For example, the second large Lithuanian city Kaunas implements a programme “Kaunas Highlights” that invites artists to submit new ideas in sculpture, design object, work of fine art and light installation. Participants can choose to decorate any place in Kaunas City with their works. The requirements for projects are uniqueness, individuality, originality and overall harmony with the environment. Kaunas City Municipality funds up to 100 per cent of the implementation costs of the project. Submitted projects are assessed by a commission that chooses the winners of the contest. The programme started in 2016 and until 2019, 39 works of visual arts have been funded.