Wednesday, March 16, 2011

ArtTraveler artist profile: Latvia's conceptual maestro Kristaps Gelzis

Kristaps Gelzis, "Varbut"

Installation, "Vakara Pascina" (2008), Kristaps Gelzis

Stalcer2, Kristaps Gelzis (1996 - 2008)

Kristaps Gelzis (b. 1962) on 18 Feb. won Latvia’s most coveted visual arts award—the Purvitis Prize.

He probably thought he deserved it, no longer an “emerging” artist.

Gelzis had arrived, and while winning the second biannual Purvitis, he pocketed 28, 500 Euros.

by Kristaps Gelzis
His solo exhibition at Maksla XO Gallery in 2009 titled “Varbut” (“Maybe”) tipped the scales in his favor.

Competing against him (painting, installation, video and photography):  Ilmars Blumbergs, Kristine Kursisa, Imants Lancmanis, Kaspars Podnieks, Martin Ratniks, Inta Ruka and Kriss Salmanis.

Members of the jury: 

Mara Lace, director of the Latvian National Museum of Art; Janis Zuzans, chairman of the board of SIA Alfor and patron of the museum; Sarmite Elerte, Minister of Culture, Republic of Latvia; Dr. hab. Art Eduards Klavins, art historian and professor of the Latvian Academy of Art; Helena Demakova, art theoretician and curator; Inga Steimane, art historian and curator;
Kristaps Gelzis

Andris Klavins, art collector; Anda Rottenberg, art historian, curator and critic from Poland; Dr. Dmitry Ozerkov, curator of the contemporary art department and Project Hermitage 20/21 at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; Dr. Lolita Jablonskiene, art historian and chief curator of the Lithuanian National Gallery of Art.
All Purvitis Prize artists continue exhibiting their entries through 10 April at the Latvian National Museum of Art.

Daiga Rudzate curated the show.

Mounting international recognition

No stranger to international art competitions and shows, he has exhibited at the Barbican, London; Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, Riga (and many other Riga venues); the Staddtische Galerie Bremen; the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; at TransVisit, Masnedofortet, Vordingborg, Denmark; Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; Pori Art Museum, Pori, Finland.

Gelzis’ mastery of materials shows up in all his diverse work, rooted to nature’s processes.

“Every natural element, thought or social event may be generalized as some flowing matter and, as time passes, there is a chance to rearrange it in a new form, acquiring a new language in the artist’s hands and revealing surprisingly ignites a new flame of conversation,” he is quoted as saying on the Rigas Galeria website.

In Latvia, Gelzis owns celebrity status. 

When Latvia became an EU member in 2004, he was there as Latvia’s sculptor along with 25 others representing EU countries.

In 2010, he received critical notice at the Berlin Emerging Art Fair as an artist to watch and closely.

At Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, Gelzis joined 59 other exhibitors. “Kristaps Gelzis’ black and white paintings at Maksla XO (Riga) got a lot of attention,” wrote Grit Schwerdfeger of Preview Berlin.

“He is sensitive to the local environment’s symbolic elements, which are then masterfully interpreted in his works, and has the courage to openly ironic about the current political and social occurrences,” the official news release announcing the award said.

"Ivars & Vilis," Kristaps Gelzis

This year, Gelzis will represent Latvia at the 54th International Art Exhibition of Venice Biennale.

Rock on and practice peace and love.

Stefan, the ArtTraveler(TM)

ArtTraveler video: A 2-minute slice of Spanish life in Andalusian village, Canillas de Albaida, Three Kings procession & fiesta, January 2011.

If you're thinking about a walking vacation in our Andalusian mountains or a week-long sculpture or mosaics workshop, see: and

You may reach me privately at; please alert me to any arts news tips or happenings which may interest us all. Or you can call me at (34) 951 067 703, or from the UK at BT landline rates: 0844 774 8349.

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