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Bologna: Creative Lithuanian children’s books and their “conductors”

Kasparavicius_mostra

A Conductor With A Paintbrush – that’s the name of the exhibition being opened in Bologna as a retrospective of the artist Kęstutis Kasparavičius. This exhibition was one of the brightest parts of Lithuania’s presentation this year at the annual international children’s book fair in Bologna. From April 4th to 7th, “conductors” with pens and paintbrushes from all over the world gathered in Bologna – publishers, authors, illustrators, printing houses, literary agents, retailers, and media creators.

Kęstutis Kasparavičius is a real old-timer and star in Bologna: here, he received UNICEF’s honourable Illustrator of the Year (1994) award, the Award for Excellence (2003), and his illustrations were selected for the competitive annual Illustrators Exhibition 13 times.

“I am extremely happy that I get to go to Bologna after a three-year break! It would probably be hard to find a better place in the world to organize an exhibition for children’s book illustrators. Besides, spring is in full swing here, apricot trees and almonds are blooming, and there are meetings to be had with old friends, acquaintances and publishers. How could one not be happy?” said the “conductor with a paintbrush” himself, Kęstutis Kasparavičius.

The Kasparavičius retrospective exhibition, created as a cooperative effort between the Lithuanian Culture Institute and Julija Reklaitė, Lithuania’s cultural attache in Italy, was opened on April 6th in the Bologna city museum’s art and history library, Biblioteca d’Arte e di Storia di San Giorgio in Poggiale.

The artist, who is best known for his clear and painstaking watercolour paintings, has created illustrations for more than 55 books published in Lithuania and abroad, and also wrote and illustrated 15 books. His books have been published in 26 foreign languages. Kasparavičius’ first retrospective exhibition, curated by Jolita Liškevičienė, will have 30 years of his creative work and more than 100 illustrations and books on display.

The Bologna book fair is also the perfect platform to start an international book illustrator’s career: this year, Aušra Kiudulaitė, the illustrator who was invited to the fair last year by the Lithuanian Culture Institute, was a finalist in the fair’s Silent Book Contest. Her works are on display at the fair and she will also participate in the fair’s events. The Institute also invited rising children’s book illustrator Inga Dagilė to participate in the book fair this year. Her book, Drambliai Eina į Svečius, received a book art contest diploma.

As a testament to long-term cooperation and to a successful presentation as the fair’s guest of honor in 2011, this year’s Lithuanian national stand had about 60 of the last year’s most beautiful illustrated books for children. The fair’s visitors will be able to view the exhibition and also become more deeply acquainted with the entire spectrum of books for children in Lithuania in a special English-language catalogue covering Lithuanian publications since 2011.

Rūta Nanartavičiūtė, the Lithuanian Culture Institute’s project manager in charge of Lithuania’s presentation at the Bologna book fair, this fair revealed the primary trends and variety to be found in publishing. “Here we have an exceptional opportunity to present Lithuania’s best books and their authors to foreign publishers, festival organizers and other professionals. This year, we will focus more on German children’s book publishers, who we want to attract with new cooperative opportunities in preparation for Lithuania’s position as a guest of honour at the 2017 Leipzig book fair. Also, Germany was the guest of honour at the Bologna book fair this year,” said Nanartavičiūtė.

The 53rd international Bologna children’s book fair, which has occupied a “territory” of more than 24,000 square meters, presented 1,200 participants from 98 countries this year. The fair has opened 9 special exhibitions and expects to have received 25,000 visitors.