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 by 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 10 divisions, 4 of which work as separate galleries: Vilnius Picture Gallery, National Gallery of Art, Pranas Domšaitis Gallery, 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 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 operate in Kaunas: M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, M. ˇilinskas 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 and 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. The Lithuanian Artists’ Association (LAA) has established 8 galleries in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda and Panevėžys and set up 6 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, the House of Artists (“Dailininkų namai”) in Palanga and the Arts Fund. The Lithuanian Photographers’ Association runs four galleries in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda. The professional Folk Artists’ Association runs a gallery and antique shop in Vilnius.
In 2009, the Lithuanian Art Gallerists’ Association organised the first visual arts fair ArtVilnius 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 the Lithuanian Council for Culture. The Council has special funding programmes for fine art, photography, 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; and 8) Developing of mastery and education. In 2021, the Lithuanian Council for Culture allocated 901 369 EUR for 106 projects of the fine arts programme, 1 297 759 EUR for 162 projects of the combined arts programme, 1 097 829 EUR for 96 projects of the interdisciplinary arts programme, and 428 757 EUR for 32 projects of photography.
The Lithuanian Council for Culture also awards grants for individual artists. Educational grants (up to 3600 EUR) are allocated for the development of professional mastery. In 2019, 2020 and 2021, the Council also awarded individual grants (600 EUR per month) for promotion of creative activity during the COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions. In 2021, the Council awarded 98 grants to fine arts, 103 for interdisciplinary artists, 49 for photographers, and 53 for folk artists. Municipalities fund visual arts through their programmes. The second largest Lithuanian city Kaunas implements a programme Kaunas Highlights that invites artists to submit projects in the fields of sculpture, design, 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. The programme started in 2016 and until 2022, 78 projects of visual arts have been funded. Regrettably, at the end of 2021, the great idea of the Kaunas Highlights programme was overshadowed by the news that the projects would no longer be evaluated by a commission of visual arts experts, but by municipal officials led by the mayor.