On October 18 MO Museum celebrated its first birthday and is summing up the results of the year. Almost 200,000 visitors attended MO Museum, while the estimated annual loss of nearly EUR 200,000 is assumed. Although MO Museum is a private initiative, right from the very beginning it has set the same goals that are usually pursued by public museums – to be as open as possible and to serve the public as widely as possible by means of cultural education activities. Therefore, during the first year, the most important thing was to engage in a dialogue with the public and open up the museum as a place for quality leisure activities, as well as a venue for a wide variety of audiences to enjoy learning about art. This has been achieved – the first year was highly successful and the established objectives have been achieved. Budget sustainability remains one of the challenges that will continue to be addressed in order to balance the support of Vilnius city, state institutions, businesses and individuals and to improve the effectiveness of the activities offered by MO.
“Before the opening, there was a lot of concern about whether the Lithuanian public would feel the need for a new art museum. Nearly 200,000 visitors are the approval for that but we are not going to stop here and will try to maintain the established connection. We are pleased that we have received many evaluations, including positive comments that MO has invaded the Lithuanian cultural world as a meteorite, as well as the acknowledgement that we managed to demonstrate a different kind of creativity and approach to how an art institution can engage in a dialogue with the audience. We have also been criticised that we will become commercial and our success will only be short-term. The motto of MO goes “Have your own opinion”. It is good that we promote diversity of opinions. We believe that active discussions raise interest and draw even more attention to art,” says Milda Ivanauskienė, Director at MO Museum.
Learning about and experiencing art
During the first year, MO held two major exhibitions (“All Art is About Us“, “Animal – Human – Robot“), four small exhibitions (“The Passage of Daily Life“, “Starting Point“, “Shared Habitats“, “Our Selfie“) and presented seven art projects and installations. At the exhibitions, we try to raise questions and talk on important topics the central core of which is identity. Both the MO collection and foreign artists’ artworks were exhibited at MO.
The exhibition “All Art is About Us“ revealed the creative themes characteristic to Lithuanian artists, reflecting the structure of the Lithuanian identity. In the second major exhibition, we plunged into a topic which is of great importance today – human activity on the Earth and coexistence with other species. In the small exhibitions, we went deeper into the topics introduced in the major ones and experimented. At “Starting Point“, we collaborated with experience designers, meanwhile, the exhibition-lab “Shared Habitats“ was implemented with artists and scientists from Weimar Bauhaus University.
MO continued its publishing traditions and during the first year introduced two major exhibition books that were aimed at broadening and supplementing these exhibitions and issues raised in them. Specially on the initiative of MO founder Danguolė Butkienė, a poetry book “Animal That I Am (Not)“ was published.
The collection was complemented by 465 new artworks of 19 authors. The collection now includes 5,440 modern and contemporary artworks by Lithuanian artists.
Museum is platform for lifelong learning
“MO attracts a wide variety of people, even those who have never visited an art museum. This is wonderful because offering an art museum as a leisure alternative is one of the most difficult tasks. Since its opening, we have been striving to make MO a museum that is always alive. I think we have more than fulfilled this promise,” M. Ivanauskienė says.
She also adds that MO aims to be a place providing lifelong learning by means of art. E-guides in Lithuanian and English are prepared and recorded for each major exhibition and are available free of charge online for anyone interested. About 30% of the Museum visitors have connected and listened to them. Over 800 tours, 33 lectures, 16 meetings with artists and cultural professionals, 28 Family Sundays, 20 interdisciplinary events and 280 film screenings took place at MO Museum during the last 12 months.
“By aiming to develop the habit of perceiving our museum as a place of knowledge, we start with our youngest audiences and seek to break the stereotype that art museums can only be relevant in the context of art lessons. We provide educational activities that fall under three categories: visual thinking, emotional intelligence training and integrated lessons. A museum is a great platform for educating the most important competences of the 21st century: creativity, critical thinking and social skills as well as emotional development,” Ivanauskienė adds.
It is estimated that nearly 7,000 children participated in educational activities at MO Museum during the first year. Nearly 250 Lithuanian schools are taking part in MO Museum Teacher’s Passport Programme, and 50% of them come from peripheral regions.
Recognition in Lithuania and abroad
This year, the founders of MO were named People of the Year and were awarded the title of Vilnius City Citizens of Honour. The Museum was also awarded as the Initiative of the Year, while President Dalia Grybauskaitė referred to it as the Centennial Gift for Lithuania. The MO Market Entry Campaign was awarded, while the video “Story of the World“ gained the 1st place in the Best Video for the Internet category, the integrated MO Museum Communication Campaign introducing its visual identity was also evaluated and awarded.
Meanwhile abroad, the Museum was included in the TOP-10 of the world‘s museums that are most worth visiting and TOP-5 of the most-anticipated museums. The MO building competed with the Scottish branch of the famous British “V&A Museum“ at the international “Architizer A+Awards“. The emergence of MO Museum has also attracted the attention of the US, Polish, German, Italian and other foreign media.
Art outside Museum
According to the representatives of the Museum, MO exhibitions are attended not only by residents of Vilnius but also guests from abroad and entire Lithuania. During the summer, the share of tourists makes 20% of the total visitors’ flow. With regard to peripheral regions of Lithuania, the majority of visitors’ groups come from schools of various Lithuanian cities and towns.
The Museum continues its Travelling Museum activities. In 2019, for the first time, MO brought one of its exhibitions to Klaipėda. The cycle of photographs “By the Sea“ by Algimantas Kunčius was exhibited at “Švyturys Bhouse“ throughout the summer. In addition, MO gave as a gift more than 8,000 publications on art education to various Lithuanian libraries and schools.
The Vilnius Talking Statues project was also continued. This year, together with the Vilnius City Municipality and the public institution “Gatvės Gyvos“, the statues of two distinguished personalities – maestro Vytautas Kernagis and composer Stanislovas Moniuška – “spoke up”. They supplemented the bunch of 18 other talking statues in Vilnius.
Both private and public support is important
According to Milda Ivanauskienė, private museums in the world differ in their goals and scope of activities. MO Museum has opted for a more resource-intensive, public museum that serves the broadest public interest. It creates more value in the long term activities.
The annual loss of the first year is yet to be specified, but it has been planned and was forecasted to stand at around EUR 200,000. It was assumed that the first year will result in significant investment costs. The loss has so far been covered by the founders of MO. The goal of the Museum remains to balance the budget by obtaining support from the city, state institutions, private sponsors, as well as developing different MO membership platforms.
According to Director at MO, the figures of foreign museums indicate that it is reasonably good when a museum collects 20% of the budget revenue from tickets. In 2018-2019 MO Museum attempted to collect 40-50% of its income from museum tickets. However, it is only natural to expect that the flow of visitors will stabilize only later and that in the future the Museum should be prepared for a lower proportion of revenue from tickets.
According to Ivanauskienė, the annual MO Museum’s budget is between EUR 1.5-1.7 million. During the first year, the income resulting from the Museum’s activities made 55% of the total budget, while sponsorship accounted for 29% and the support from the Vilnius City Municipality and Lithuanian Council for Culture – 16%. “It is quite common for foreign museums to receive about 40-50% of the state support. Therefore, in the short term, it is important for us to secure that the contribution coming from the state reaches at least 20-30%,” Ivanauskienė adds.
New traditions being established
Gathering patrons and supporters of the Museum is a new tradition that MO began developing during its first year. “We are trying to change the approach of our business environment towards cultural objects, and we want to prove that investing in culture and art is not only important but also worthwhile. Therefore, we strive to provide the business sector with the quality and desired return,” Ivanauskienė asserts.
In its early years, the Museum received support from both corporate and private sponsors. MO was supported by “Švyturys-Utena Alus“, “Juodeliai“, “Naresta“, “Narbutas“, “Baltisches Haus“. Private sponsors include Vilija and Gediminas Kuprevičius, Žilvinas Mecelis, Antanas Guoga, Živilė and Jonas Garbaravičius, Žana and Vladas Bumelis, Lithuanian families of Markevičius and Milaknis residing in Los Angeles, Laima and Šarūnas Andriukaitis, Kęstutis Juščius.
Building communities is one of the Museum’s goals. In addition to private sponsors and patrons, the MOdernist and volunteer community are also very important to the Museum. They are the supporters and co-creators of MO, united by a desire to support the idea of an independent, modern museum. MO Museum is currently upheld by 550 Modernists and 120 volunteers.
However, as the Museum director admits, there is still a lot of work and time necessary for the establishment of these initiatives as long-term traditions.
“The founders have given MO Museum to Lithuania as a present. Now, it has become a combined result and achievement of the creative and collaborative work of all of us – the team, MOdernists, volunteers, visitors, curators, patrons and sponsors. We want and aim to make MO Museum a lasting change and breakthrough in Lithuanian culture. And for that, our all support is important,” Ivanauskienė says.