At first glance, the house–museum of the Lithuanian émigré artist and collector Kazys Varnelis looks like a small residential building. In fact, though, it contains more than 40 exhibition spaces combining antique graphic arts, maps, Western European sculpture and painting, historic furniture and Asian artworks, as well as Varnelis’s own optical art compositions.
Kazys Varnelis (1917–2010) was born and raised in Lithuania. During the Second World War he left to study in Austria, then later moved to Germany, finally settling in the United States in 1949. There he developed his mature style and became a well-known representative of op art as well as a passionate collector of antiques and rare books. After more than half a century in the emigration, Varnelis returned to Lithuania in 1998. He took residence in a building on Didžioji Street in Vilnius and began to establish a museum in it. The artist worked continuously on improving the exhibition, creating unexpected and contrasting combinations, with time turning the museum itself into a work of art.
Today the visitor can independently explore fourteen of the museum’s rooms; others can be viewed with a guide, which requires advance booking. The extended tour offers the opportunity not only to become acquainted with Varnelis’s painting and collection, but also see his 10,000-book library and the artist’s unique studio space.
The Kazys Varnelis House–Museum is the first such Lithuanian museum created by a collector and also the only branch of the National Museum of Lithuania dedicated solely to art.