YoC.4: Museum of Decorative Arts and Design

YoC.4: Museum of Decorative Arts and Design



This Sunday, I visited the Latvian Museum of Decorative Arts and Design located in Old Town right by St. Peter’s Church. I had been here before at least once, but I wanted to see the wooden sculptures of Jānis Straupe titled “Ne-lietas” or “No-Objects.”

The Museum

This museum is easy to overlook because of its small size, but at least today they had flags outside to let me know that I was in the right place. It was also surprisingly busy. I knew there was something going on at 14:00 because I had a Facebook event, but I was too early for it. It also seemed to be a special day for families. There were lots of children enjoying various interactive exhibitions.


Once inside, I found the small ticket counter to the left and tried to buy a combination ticket which usually cost 5 euros. Today, she explained, there was some special, so it was only 3.80. I did not fully understand what she said, but I was happy.

Then I gave my coat and bag to the very kind coat man, an elderly gentleman with a red spot on his forehead. I forgot my glasses in my bag, so I had to ask for it back in order to see the displays properly.

The museum is in a very old building with curious nooks and crannies. I kind of wish that the museum of design were better designed, but I guess they are doing the best that they can.


Before entering the exhibition space, there was a large sculpture of a round wooden ball with a few spikes. Children were touching it and playing around it.

I read the bio on the wall and one quotation in particular really struck me as fascinating:

“Out of respect towards wood which had to grow for many years before it could be used as a material, I do not want to waste it on questionable ideas!” –Jānis Straupe

The object that looks like a sphere is actually a very complex collection of wooden pieces that is kind of mind blowing to an unstructured mind like mine.

Close up of Sphere

What seems so simple and perfect is actually quite intricate.

Further into the gallery, there were many more large pieces, each one inspiring a bit of awe in their scope and beauty. There is a certain perfection in the artist’s craft that is quite admirable.

Savērptais galds/Twisted table 1992



The final piece which was the largest of all is titled “Pendulum.” It feels kinetic to look at and I almost thought I saw it moving at one point, but I guess that must have been my imagination. To me, it looked like a giant boat, and I was happy to see that boats were a motif that he had dealt with in other works.


I wish I had more context for his work and for the people at the exhibit. I felt like some people looking at his work must have been experts in their own right. This couple seemed to scrutinize the work very carefully, and I wish I knew what they were discussing as they looked at his art in such detail.

Running Chairs

He also has an affinity for chairs. These are the running chairs, and you can sense the kinetic concept going on here. He also had a privacy chair that I was invited to sit in by the kindly curator. She took my photo. The idea is that you can sit in the chair and close the blinds to give yourself a bit of personal space even in a crowded room.

Jeff in the Box


This large sculpture of birds was the final piece. Here you can see the floor of the design museum is in need of some work, I think. But the sculpture itself is exquisite.

It is clear from all of his work that Straupe is a genius when it comes to working with wood and creating forms that express something unique and interesting. He is able to envision a shape and then construct it not only to be beautiful but also have a certain utility and quality of permanence to it. Even his smaller pieces such as basket, bowls and plates are simple and elegant with an air of perfection.

The Rest of the Museum

After taking in the “No-objects” exhibition, I went up the stairs to see the permanent collection. For this, I will just share a gallery so you can see some of what I saw. My overall impression is that Latvian designers have their own unique style and are quite talented in expressing themselves. The designs border on experimental while still be aesthetic.

All told, I only spent about an hour in the museum. It is worth the price of admission, and I really enjoyed the third floor, where I saw several iconic Latvian images in their original conceptual form.

Side note:

My original plan was to see a jazz band show called Nonet, which is a group of nine musicians. “Nonet” was a word in a crossword puzzle that I had completed earlier this week, and then I made a terrible joke on Facebook about the word. I thought it was some divine intervention drawing me to see that concert, but instead I hung out with friends and had a nice time in Old Town after getting a beard trim.

We find validation where we can find it, and at the Knockout Barber Shop last night, my barber was a woman who recognized me. She was a former student of mine from Lingua Franca. I did not remember her, but she remembered me and she told me that I had been a “great teacher” and she was surprised that I was no longer teaching.

A small random interaction combined with the confidence gained by a well-shaped beard were enough to make me forget about my foot pain and overall tiredness and instead, just go out and have a good time. This is just a reminder that most of it is all in our heads.


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