Documentary traces the rebirth of modern art in Latvia

LTV's series of short documentaries on significant dates in Latvian history has another episode for you, complete with English-language subtitles.

This time, the date in question is 1959 and the now incongruous-sounding "Lenin's Art Day", an ideological weapon unveiled by the Soviet regime that ended up backfiring spectacularly.

This effort to produce suitably compliant and propagandistic work in the officially approved Socialist-Realist style seemed to work at first, but art and artists being what they are, rebels and free-thinkers eventually emerged with a desire to express more than hopes for a Marxist-Leninist Utopia.

A decisive moment came at the 'Celebrations' exhibition in 1972, which opened a new chapter in the history of Latvian modern art. Nominally a celebration of the 50th aniversary of the Soviet Union, it dazzled viewers with pop art, op art and other modern, abstract forms that would cause apoplexy among the ideological old guard.

Emboldened by success, art began again to take up one of its main roles - to ask questions and challenge orthodoxy - and another exhibition in 1984 made such an impact the authorities shut it down.

According to LTV "The Keys" series tells of the most important or "key" events, personalities and turning points in the history of the Latvian state from 1918 to the present. The purpose is to reveal each selected event from an unusual point of view, as if "unlocking the door" to lesser known and therefore particularly intriguing facts. 

"Such an exploratory approach, bypassing the usual stereotypes of presenting history, will allow viewers to perceive what is known to others and to better understand what has happened in the context of today's experience," says LTV.

Throughout the year, Latvian history will be told in 'mixed order' - events will not be sequenced year by year, but viewed in the exact month in which they occurred

The show is made by VFS Films, a long-time partner of Latvian Television and it is hosted by Mārtiņš Ķibilds, a distinguished cultural journalist who sadly passed away late last year.

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