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Installation “Lost Baggage”

by Mykola Ridnyi

The installation “Lost Baggage“ by the Ukrainian artist Mykola Ridnyi was exhibited at Kaunas Railway Station and after 12th Kaunas Biennale it was transferred to the Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum. The installation temporarily will be stored and exhibited at the museum because the art supporters, who would be able to purchase them or donate them to the museum are still being looked for. The expositions of Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum present Kaunas ghetto and tell the fates of ghetto prisoners, for this reason, the installation “Lost Baggage” will contribute to the interactive knowledge of history. Artist Ridnyi created this monumental pot installation inspired by Esther Lurie’s work and her life story.

Esther Lurie (1913-1998) is a Jewish artist from Latvia. In 1934, Esther’s family emigrated to Palestine, where she was creating theatre decorations and painted portraits. In 1939, Esther returned to Europe and after living in France for a while, she studied at Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

The Second World War began while she was in Lithuania. Throughout the Nazi occupation, from 1941 to 1944, together with other Jews she was imprisoned in Kaunas ghetto. During the most difficult period of her life, the artist portrayed the everyday life of the ghetto in her drawings. After the deportation of the ghetto prisoners to Estonia on October 26, in 1943, E. Lurie hid about 200 drawings and watercolour works to protect her collection from the Nazis. She put her drawings inside of ceramic pots and buried them. Some of her works were photographed for the secret ghetto archive. In July 1944, Kaunas ghetto was liquidated, and Esther was sent to Germany – she was imprisoned in Stutthof concentration camp. There she was drawing as well. After the war, E. Lurie returned to Israel and settled down in Tel Aviv.

Esther’s hidden works remained in the ghetto. 11 sketches and watercolour works, as well as 20 photographed drawings of E. Lurie were saved by A. Toris (secretary of the Kaunas ghetto). Her drawings were also preserved by Lithuanians: artist V. Šleivytė and doctor S. Paukštys. Esther Lurie’s drawings can be seen at the Yad Vashem Museum and private galleries, however, some of her works have never been found.

M. Ridnyi originally “hid” Esther Lurie’s drawings inside of the five ceramic human-sized pots. Visitors can see the drawings only by looking through the small holes on the surfaces of the pots. This interactive gesture is an opportunity to see and feel what is in the shadow. Installation at Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum is on display since November 23, 2019.