Helēna Demakova

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Helena Demakova
Helena Demakova.jpg
Minister of Culture of the Republic of Latvia
In office
9 March 2004 – 12 January 2009
PresidentValdis Zatlers
Prime MinisterIndulis Emsis
Aigars Kalvītis
Ivars Godmanis
Preceded byInguna Rībena
Succeeded byInts Dālderis (since 12 March 2009)
Personal details
Born (1959-09-03) 3 September 1959 (age 59)
Riga, Latvia
Political partyPeople’s Party (1998—2011)
EducationUniversity of Latvia
Art Academy of Latvia
Latvian Academy of Culture
Occupationart historian
AwardsOrder of the Three Stars
Order of Arts and Letters
Medal for Merit to Culture

Helēna Demakova (born September 3, 1959) is a Latvian art historian, curator of art exhibitions, and politician. She served as Culture Minister of Latvia from 2004 until 2009 and was a Member of the 9th Saeima (Parliament of Latvia) and lecturer at the Art Academy of Latvia.


Demakova was a private pupil of painter Marina Ainbindere from 1978–1982, completing a three-year programme of preparatory courses at the Art Academy of Latvia.[citation needed] She received a BA from the Faculty of Foreign Languages of the University of Latvia in 1987,[citation needed] and an MA in Arts from the Latvian Academy of Culture in 2007.[citation needed]

Professional career[edit]

Demakova began curating exhibitions in 1990 and implemented around forty Latvian and international exhibitions.[1] Her curating work focuses mainly on contemporary art from Latvia and the Baltic Sea region, including the latter years of the Soviet era and art in public spaces.[2][3][4][5]

From 1998-2002, Demakova was the People's Party deputy (MP) of the Latvian Saeima (Parliament).[1] From 2004-2009 she was the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Latvia.[6] Soon after taking the position, she emphasized the importance of preserving Latvian language, history and culture to the national identity of the country.[7] She did not renew her position in 2009, however due to health problems.[8] She was diagnosed with a bone infection.[6]

Significant initiatives undertaken during Demakova's political career include additions to technology and infrastructure in Latvia to support culture and arts. In the late 1990s, Demakova secured grants and support for a Latvian Library Consortium, which unfortunately did not work out as planned.[9] She continued working towards a national library for the country, however. Demakova was very involved with the beginning of the construction of the National Library of Latvia (2008).[10] The library construction almost immediately began to suffer attacks from opponents of the library. Jaunais Laiks, the right-wing opposition party tried to stop the project.[11] Demakova fought especially hard to ensure that the library was built, even strongly criticizing the President of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers.[12] She was also involved with the launching of the Heritage 2018 (Mantojums 2018) programme, which foresees the renovation of all state-owned buildings serving as cultural monuments (2006);[13] the beginning of a programme to construct concert halls in regional urban centres (2007), leading to the opening of brand new concert halls in the cities of Rēzekne (2013), Cēsis (2014) and Liepāja (2015);[14] and directing the competition for the construction of a monument to commemorate the victims of the occupying Soviet regime (2007).[citation needed]

Demakova also took part in directing several large-scale cultural festivals, including Surprising Latvia (Pārsteidzošā Latvija, 2005, France); French Spring (Francijas pavasaris, 2007, Latvia); Oh! Germany (O! Vācija, German culture festival, Latvia, 2008); Latvian Culture Festival in Russia (2007/2008); and the Russian Culture Festival in Latvia (2008).[citation needed]

In 2005, during her tenure as Minister of Culture, Demakova signed an agreement with the ABLV Bank on the creation of an art collection for the future Latvian Contemporary Art Museum.[citation needed] Also during her term in office as Minister of Culture, the Sinfonietta Riga chamber orchestra was founded (2006);[citation needed] the Writers’ and Translators’ House was set up in Ventspils (2006);[citation needed] the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed a matching grant of 16.2-million-USD for the installation of computers at Latvia's municipal libraries (2006);[15] the Latvian Cultural Canon was launched (2007);[citation needed] the Museum of Romans Suta and Aleksandra Beļcova was founded and inaugurated as a branch of the Latvian National Museum of Art (2008);[citation needed] state financing began to be allocated for cultural events at the Spīķeri concert hall and the kim? Centre for Contemporary Art, both of which are located in Spīķeri Quarter near Riga's central market (2008);[citation needed] and the reconstruction of the Daile theatre in Riga was begun and completed.[citation needed]

In the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008, projects to construct a new concert hall in Riga and the Riga Contemporary Art Museum were suspended.[citation needed]


Selected curated exhibitions[edit]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Demakova, Helēna, compiler and editor-in-chief. The Self. Personalities on the Road to Contemporary Art – the 1960s-1980s in Soviet Latvia (Patība. Personības ceļā uz laikmetīgo mākslu — Padomju Latvijas 60.–80. gadi). Riga: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, 2011. In Latvian
  • Demakova, Helēna. They Wouldn’t Notice. Latvian Contemporary Art and the International Context / Nepamanīs. Latvijas laikmetīgā māksla un starptautiskais konteksts. Riga: Satori, 2010. In Latvian and English
  • Demakova, Helēna. Different Conversations: Writings on Art and Culture / Citas sarunas: raksti par mākslu un kultūru. Riga: Visual Communications Department of the Art Academy of Latvia, 2002. In Latvian and English
  • Demakova, Helēna, compiler and editor-in-chief. Riga 800 Magic Flute / Rīgas astoņsimtgades Burvju flauta (Catalogue of international contemporary art at the 49th Venice Biennale). Riga: Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, 2001. In Latvian and English
  • Karlstrom, Paul J. Raimonds Staprans: Art of Tranquility and Turbulence. With essays by Helāna Demakova and Peter Selz. Seattle, London: University of Washington Press, 2005
  • Demakova, Helēna. “Monument revisited”. In Primary Documents: a Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art since the 1950s. Ed. Laura Hoptman, Tomáš Pospiszyl. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2002
  • Demakova, Helēna. “Apple Harvest or Art in Latvia 1945–1995: Between Personal and Ideological Time”. In Personal Time: Art of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 1945–1996. Anda Rottenberg, Galeria Zachęta. Catalogue of an exhibition held jointly at the Zachȩta Gallery of Contemporary Art, Warsaw and the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, 9 September-13 October 1996. Warsaw: Zachęta Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1996

Social activities[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Helena Demakova". Associazione “Amici della Musica”. 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  2. ^ "2 Show. Young Art from Latvia and Lithuania". Contemporary Art Center. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  3. ^ "About the Competition-Exhibition "Riga Smiles"". www.artinpublicspace.lv. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  4. ^ "Helēna Demakova: Riga's new public art programme: a private gesture for the public good (in Latvian)". TÊTE-À-TÊTE. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  5. ^ Museum, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art (2001-01-01). Art of the Baltics: The Struggle for Freedom of Artistic Expression Under the Soviets, 1945-1991. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813530420.
  6. ^ a b Straumanis, Andris (13 January 2009). "Citing Health, Culture Minister Demakova Resigns". Latvians Online. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  7. ^ Kruk, Sergei (2005). Ozolina, Zaneta (ed.). Latvians and Latvia's Residents: Representation of National Identity in Public and Private Discourse (PDF). Latvijas Universitate. pp. 101–102. ISBN 9984770672. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  8. ^ Ikstens, Janis (December 2010). "Latvia". European Journal of Political Research. 49 (7): 1049. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6765.2010.01961.x. Retrieved 21 July 2015. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  9. ^ Quandt, Richard E. (2002). The Changing Landscape in Eastern Europe: A Personal Perspective on Philanthropy and Technology Transfer. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 266, 269. ISBN 978-0195146691.
  10. ^ Slava, Laima (2005). "Interview with Helena Demakova". Studi Ja. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  11. ^ "Latvian National Library". Kultra un Attistiba. Archived from the original on 2 August 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  12. ^ Archdeacon, Talis Saule (12 December 2007). "Dark Times Ahead for the 'Castle of Light?'". The Baltic Times. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  13. ^ "Valdības lēmums finansēt Lielās ģildes restaurāciju ir vēsturisks lēmums" (in Latvian). Tvnet.lv. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  14. ^ Midgette, Anne (16 July 2006). "In Riga, Creating an Identity Through the Arts". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Minister of Culture Visits the U.S." Embassy of the Republic of Latvia to the United States of America. Archived from the original on 22 July 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  16. ^ http://www.rigasbirza.lv
  17. ^ http://www.artinpublicspace.lv.