A giant open-air gallery in the streets of Vilnius. Project “Art needs no roof” (Vilnius, Lithuania)

The project was born in response to quarantine restrictions that prevented art galleries from operating, so artists could not exhibit and sell their works. Willing to support the artists, Vilnius City Municipality together with the outdoor advertising company JCDecaux Lietuva implemented project “Art needs no roof” and invited artist to showcase their works on billboards free of charge. In this way, Vilnius became one giant open-air art gallery and connected artists with art lovers.


The project “Art needs no roof” was an initiative of Vilnius City Municipality together with the outdoor advertising company JCDecaux Lietuva. Vilnius City Municipality is governmental institution operating in the public sector whereas the JCDecaux Lietuva is the world’s largest out-of-home advertising company and a market leader in Lithuania operating in the private sector. Both organizations have different background, mission, target groups, etc. However, they united for a common goal – to support local artists and bring art closer to its lovers. According to Vilnius City Mayor Remigijus Šimašius “quarantine may have restricted visits to art galleries, but it could not stop the creativity – the project “Art needs no roof” reunites artists with art fans, and their meeting place became the whole of Vilnius city, which has turned into a large gallery”.


Publicly announced invitation to submit the artworks to the “Art needs no roof” gallery has attracted record interest of artists. All professional artists or galleries representing them were invited to participate in the project. Over the 500 artworks have been submitted for review and 100 of them have been exhibited in July, 2020 in the streets of Vilnius. The artworks for the exhibition were selected considering the several criteria: the portfolio of the author, the visuality of work and its integration with the landscape of the city. The goal of the selection was to compose an exhibition that would best represent the Lithuanian art in all its variety. Besides, there was a possibility (and still is) to purchase the artworks and the prices with artist contact details could be found on the special website. Visitors can view and buy some of the works exhibited in a virtual gallery here: Next to the virtual gallery was a map of the center of Vilnius, which made it easy to find all the stands with artworks that could be bypassed just on foot. Most of the artworks were created before the pandemic, but new artworks created during the quarantine were also submitted. Artworks reflect a very diverse Lithuanian art scene and differs in themes and techniques. Participation in the project for the artists was free of charge, all printing and exhibition costs of the works were covered by the project organizers Vilnius City Municipality and the outdoor advertising company JCDecaux Lietuva. Artist of multiply talents Algis Kriščiūnas shared his thoughts, which perfectly describe the meaning of the project “I think that this project is a new window to the hearts of the audience. When art is exhibited only in galleries, the artists are excluded from society: not everyone will take time to come and see the exhibition. But the art objects of “Art Needs No Roof” will be seen by all people on the street.”


The project received not only a great involvement of art creators, but also the interest of the city residents and guests. Art lovers were able to explore the exhibition in an unusual way, find favorite artworks and purchase them, whereas artists had the opportunity to show their artworks, sell them or to make new connections with the other artists or art lovers. The prices of artworks ranged from tens to a 10 thousand euros. After the first “Art needs no roof” project, 7 percent of the artworks were purchased, and some artists received new orders or valuable partnership offers. Even in the first week more than 8 000 visitors of project website were counted. The project was actively promoted abroad, thus helping Lithuanian artists to find fans in other countries. It received a lot of attention from the media worldwide.

In Lithuania it was innovative idea to exhibit artworks outdoor, probably never implemented before. It is not surprising that Vilnius City Municipality and the JCDecaux Lietuva have decided to implement. This is not the first time that the city residents and guests have been surprised by their unique ideas implemented together or separately (for example, Vilnius City Municipality let to use public spaces for open air cafes free of charge). Even later when the galleries were open, interest in the project has not disappeared. The project “Art needs no roof” was implemented in Vilnius once again after a year. As the Vilnius City Mayor stated “The project is needed not only in a pandemic reality. The city needs art, and the artists need the city, so the project will live on”.


The project “Art needs no roof” was not just the photos of artworks in the outdoor billboards that could be viewed while walking around the city. In these difficult times it brought artist with their artworks closer to their fans. Moreover, these and even more artworks, grouped by the names of their authors, were presented in a virtual gallery. All of them could be purchased directly from the artists or the galleries representing them. In general, it is a great example of the public and private sector cooperation that shows how joining forces can lead to good results that had a positive impact on various stakeholders. The success of the initiative is confirmed by the fact that project “Art needs no roof” was implemented again in 2021.