What could better express the idea of the magnetism in different corners of Latvia, as all these “hubs” or “centres” of different sizes, energies, ideas and schools which flourish everywhere in Latvia and are like those pebble stones, thrown in to a quiet lake and getting wider and wider in their circles. It is through initiatives of visionaries, groups, public organizations or private passion, that the development of the country is driven, and the support of artists and art creation is a very strong driver, as we shall see here.

So far, this year’s stories about Latvia have covered such initiatives as rebuilding and rediscovering old treasures and manors, new music centres and people who love music and who take the effort to travel to places where music is performed, attracting conferences and incentive groups and more. Now, we want to show how art and boundless creativity can turn places into centres of attraction, that make it worth to go all the way there just to experience this creativity!

This story is about a distant corner of Latvia in the South Eastern region of Latgale and it plays in Daugavpils. The town is situated 232 km from Riga, which is about the remotest distance in this small country. It is only 25 km away from the borders to Lithuania and 3 km from Belarus. It has its very own historic background which would lead too far to explain here. The town is divided in half by the River Daugava (which covers the country and flows through Riga as well) and is surrounded by woods and cultivated land. To attract visitors, it needs a strong pull and in Daugavpils they have succeeded to create such a pull. The city has turned into a hub for art in the country in a very short time. In terms of population, Daugavpils is the second-largest town after Riga which makes it an important economic, cultural and tourism centre and a home for one of the biggest regional universities also.

The origin for this connection to art is the most famous son of the city, Marc Rothko, the American painter who was born in Daugavpils in 1903 — and whose family emigrated to the US when he was only 10.

Here is a quote from the MoMA website chapter on the artist:

“Mark Rothko sought to make paintings that would bring people to tears. “I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on,” he declared. “And the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions….If you…are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point.” Rothko painted to plumb the depths of himself and the human condition. For him, art was a profound form of communication, and art making was a moral act.”

Moving on to the development of the art center, which also  can accommodate conferences and meetings.

The idea and the collection was born in 2002 when the organization of Mark Rothko’s 100th anniversary program began. An International symposium and a sophisticated art residence program now promote the centre to professional contemporary artists and ensure that the collection is supplemented with high-quality works of art.

Since the opening of the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Center in 2013, its collection is therefore constantly growing. The art centre displays exhibitions of Latvian and foreign artists in diverse media — painting, graphics, textile, ceramics, photography — as well as showing cultural and historical expositions. The development into a “hub” — a centre of happening took place only in the past 5-6 years. This is the only place in Eastern Europe where you can view original works of Mark Rothko, world-known as the founder of abstract expressionism.

The Mark Rothko Art Center is located in Daugavpils Fortress — a fortress of the first half of the 19th century in Eastern Europe that has remained almost unchanged until today and is a symbol of Daugavpils city.

So where is the connection with planning any corporate or conference programs? The connection is art and the support and promotion of different art schools and methods. The centre offers very nice and contemporary event space, catering facilities and the fortress’ large outdoor facilities in the moat (which is place of the International Festival of the Military History Reconstruction see the small video clip about this amazing festival).

Dessert: a cake in the style of a Mark Rothko painting

In a nutshell, the Mark Rothko Art Center is located in a multi-functional contemporary art and culture centre in the Arsenal building of the Daugavpils Fortress where history goes hand in hand with contemporary art, creating a unique and inspiring place for creative expression and experience.

Besides art and military history there is also a context with industrial history — welcome to the ‘Daugavpils Shot Factory’ (Daugavpils skrošu rūpnīca) at Daugavpils in Latvia, a UNESCO industrial monument since 2015! “The Daugavpils shot factory is the oldest ammunition factory in Northern Europe operating since 1885. The Factory’s shot tower is one of the best survived examples in the world and even today is producing lead shots. This lead shot making technology was invented by British plumber William Watts in 1782. By this technology the molten lead falls from the top of tower through a metal sieve, during a free-fall the lead freezes into spherical balls which are caught into a water basin. The Factory’s tower is 30 m high and it has 19 m deep well under it, in addition to the tower there is a fully equipped shot after-processing department. According to the sustainable tourism development and industrial heritage preservation the Factory is open to tourists all year round with guided tours, the shot tower and the well under it was included in Latvian National Cultural Heritage Register in 2014 as the only such kind object in the Baltic states.

(Taken from ERIH – European Route of Industrial Heritage facebook site)

More context for conferences or meetings can be found in religion (several confessions are united in the city, like a Jewish community and the Old Believers, a very conservative church. )

And any visitor must try the “Schmakovka – the liquor from Latgale region” – Cheers to the future!

More reading: https://www.latvia.travel/en/city/daugavpils-8


The 2019 content about Magnetic Lativa is supported by LIAA and MEETRiga.

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Ieva Gredzena, LIAA (Investment and Development Agency of Latvia) email: Ieva.Gredzena@liaa.gov.lv

or /and

Mr. Aigars Smiltans of MeetRiga, email: aigars.smiltans@liveriga.lv