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The Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre

Photos and text by Stuart Forster

Exterior of the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre

The Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre is one of the principal cultural attractions of eastern Latvia’s Latgale region. The centre occupies a converted arsenal within Daugavpils Fortress.

A reminder of the nineteenth century building’s former use, cannons stand on the plaza outside the art centre. To the right of the centre’s main entrance is a reproduction of a Rothko self-portrait from 1936. At the time it was painted, Rothko was living in the United States of America. Daugavpils — then known as Dvinsk and a part of the Russian Empire — was his place of birth in 1903. It was not until 1940 that Markus Rothkowitz changed his name to Mark Rothko. Visitors to the centre can learn about aspects of Rothko’s life and artworks in videos projected within the former military building.

Gate of Daugavpils Fortress, the location of the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre

The centre that bears his name opened in 2013 and is the only place in eastern Europe that permanently displays works by Rothko. “By having the original paintings in this art space, it makes a huge impact on art development in this region of Latgale,” explains TatjanaČernova, the Exhibition Curator at the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre.

“We have very good communications with Mark Rothko’s family, with his children Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko. During the past seven years we have had three exhibitions of Mark Rothko’s paintings on display, on long-term loan after agreement with the family. Thanks to that communication and their interest we have Mark Rothko paintings in Latvia,” elucidates Černova.

Each Rothko original is exhibited at the centre for three years. The five paintings currently being shown in Daugavpils will remain on exhibition until 2022. They are indicative of Rothko’s evolution towards ‘multiform’ compositions. Conservatively, the artworks’ collective value can be estimated at approximately $140 million. That, of course, means a requirement for serious security plus a monitored environment with temperature and humidity controls.

In My Beginning is my End by Chinese artist Hsiao Chin continues until 25 October 2020

“Our building is fantastic,” says Černova. “This kind of old arsenal building has been used before for exhibiting art.” The subtly illuminated gallery in which Rothko’s works are exhibited stands beyond a library, much of which is given over to publications about Rothko and this works. The library also stores portfolios and publications relating to the international art symposia which the centre hosts five times a year.

Between 28 July and 12 August 2020 the centre invited artists from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland to participate in a symposium dedicated to Silva Linarte, a Latvian artist and art educator who lived from 1939 to 2018. Participating artists can make use of studios during residencies lasting two weeks; time that can be used to create artworks that become part of the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre’s contemporary collection.

As that intimates, Mark Rothko is not the only artist whose works are exhibited at the centre. Exhibitions featuring works by both Latvian and international artists change every two to three months. Two Summits by Latvian painter Silva Linarte and ceramicist Pēteris Martinsons continues until 25 October 2020. Magical World, by Hunt Slonem, a neo-expressionist from the USA, will remain on display until 18 October 2020. It features depictions of rabbits plus colourful, textured images.

In My Beginning is my End by Chinese artist Hsiao Chin continues until 25 October 2020

In My Beginning is my End, by Chinese artist Hsiao Chin, continues until 25 October 2020. Chin’s works are exhibited in institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and The National Art Museum of China in Beijing. In the 1950s Hsiao Chin was one of the founders of the Ton-Fan Art Group, China’s first abstract art group, as well the Movimento Punto avant-garde movement, in Milan, during the 1960s. His artworks frequently fuse Western and Asian elements.

“We work with special art wall systems. We take each artist and exhibition individually. We completely change the space when there’s an exhibition change,” explains Černova. “During the past seven years we have installed lighting and tried different types of modular exhibition walls. Sometimes there is a need for additional light and sometimes we close the windows, to reduce the natural light,” she adds, explaining why the artworks on display at the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre can have such impact.

Hosting exhibitions by world renowned artists, prominent Latvians and up-and-coming contemporary artists means that the centre plays a significant role in fostering the awareness of art and interest in the art world beyond Latvia’s borders.

Magical World, by Hunt Slonem will be at the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre until 18 October 2020.

Daugavpils is a three-hour drive from Riga, Latvia’s capital. Inevitably, the 225 kilometres that separates the two cities is sufficient to discourage international travellers with only a fleeting interest in art from visiting the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre. Typically, tourists tend to flow between the three capitals of the Baltic region — Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius — without taking a detour to Daugavpils. Art lovers, however, are willing to make the journey to Latvia’s second city and a distinctly off-the-beaten-track destination.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, has been atypical. Most of the international travellers visiting the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre have been from neighbouring countries. In common with other Latvian museums and tourist attractions, the institution remained closed from 13 March until 16 May. The centre used the two-month hiatus positively.

“We continued scientific work and research. During the pandemic we installed new exhibitions. We were closed long enough to renovate installations and do maintenance of systems. You can see a beautiful grey ceiling that we just repainted during the pandemic,” explains Černova.

The eyes of most visitors, though, remain fixed on what’s displayed on the walls while in the impressive art centre.

Useful information

Find out about current and forthcoming exhibitions on the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre website.

See the Visit Daugavpils, Visit Latgale and Visit Latvia to plan a trip to Daugavpils and the surrounding region.


About the Author: Stuart Forster

Stuart is a history graduate and a widely published freelance travel journalist based in north-east England. He won the 2017 British Annual Canada Travel Award for best online coverage for a feature published on Go Eat Do ( and was named Journalist of the Year at the Holland Press Awards in 2015, 2016 and 2019.

His work has been published by the likes of the Wanderlust, Mail on Sunday, National Geographic Traveller and Rough Guides. He also undertakes photographic commissions and is a director of Why Eye Photography ( and Go Eat Do (


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