ABLV trouble puts question marks over future of modern art museum

Troubles faced by ABLV Bank have put question marks about the future of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Cancellation would wipe out decades' worth of initiatives to allow enthusiasts see how Latvia's art has developed during the previous 50 years, reports Latvian Radio February 20. 

The museum is a public/private initiative with backing from ABLV bank, the Boris and Inara Teterev Fund and the Culture Ministry. With designs already approved, it is to be built by November 18, 2021. 

"The priority is to ensure normal operations at the bank. I hope you understand what I mean by that. On the other hand, projects keep on developing today. Without a doubt, they will be reviewed in the long term," said Ernests Bernis, Chairman of the Board of ABLV Bank, at a press conference on February 19.

Bernis was answering a question as to what will happen to the bank's numerous real-estate projects as a whole.

Meanwhile Elīna Vikmane, head of the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art Foundation, said it's "too early to make any conclusions now, and the development of the museum is going according to plan." She declined further comment.

The Boris and Inara Teterev Fund is also reticent, saying further news will only come after a council meeting when the eponymous patrons return to Latvia. 

"If all fails down completely, it will set the development of Latvian art back for several decades," said Solvita Krese, head of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art. 

She hopes the state would overtake the project should the current funding model fail.

"We're one of the few Western European [sic] countries without a modern art museum. What does modern art mean? It's really the last 50 years, which should be fit into this museum. And this collection is not being systematically collected, maintained and preserved.

"There are fragmentary works currently at the Latvian National Museum of Art or the ABLV Bank collection for the upcoming Museum of Contemporary Art.

"These works are disappearing right now. In the best case, they are being bought and go to private collections. In the worst case, they perish.

"Making and preserving history is one thing. Making it available to the public is another. There are several generations without a systematic overview of what has happened in Latvian art [during the last 50 years]," she said. 

According to its website, the ABLV Bank charity fund has supported 300 projects worth more than €3.2 million. The bank holds more than 200 modern Latvian artworks in its collection destined for the museum.

Listen to an LSM interview with David Adjaye, whose firm emerged victorious among a clutch of architects competing for the €30m commission to design the museum. 

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