Estonian art

Estonia to promote the country in Beijing

The Estonian embassy in Beijing, together with other government agencies, is organising a week-long promotion week for Estonia in the Chinese capital with cultural events, thus celebrating 25 years of diplomatic relations with China.

The events, running from 25 April to 1 May, organised in cooperation with the ministry of rural affairs, the ministry of culture, the foreign ministry and Enterprise Estonia, will promote the country from various perspectives, culinary traditions as well as cultural treasures, including the work of Estonian chefs, the wild and pure food and beverages of Estonia, the opportunities for the Chinese tourists for culinary and health tourism in Estonia and culinary travel routes throughout Estonia and in the wider Nordic-Baltic region.

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The programme also includes Estonian music performances, art, and design.

Merike Estna by Aime Estna

There will be two week-long events – the offering of Estonian food menus at the Grill 79 restaurant at the China World Summit Wing, and an awarded Estonian barman, Kristo Tomingas, at the popular Atmosphere bar on the China World Summit Hotel’s 80th floor. These events feature an Estonian chef, Inga Paenurm, who will be preparing Estonian dinner and lunch menus as well as a brunch menu on 1 May.

Maarja-Liis Ilus

The week will also present three Estonian musical guest to the Chinese audience – pianist Rein Rannap and singer Maarja-Liis Ilus will be performing.

Kris Lemsalu

In addition to the food and the music, a tourism seminar will be held at the embassy with a special focus on culinary and health tourism. Also, a contemporary art exhibition by will be opened at the 798 Art Zone, featuring five emerging Estonian contemporary artists: Flo Kasearu, Kris Lemsalu, Merike Estna, Katrin Koskaru and Sigrid Viir.

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Cover: the China World Summit Wing.

Estonian artists exhibit their work in Abu Dhabi

On 5 March, an Estonian art exhibition opens at the Abu Dhabi Art Hub, which is also the grand final for the Estonian Art Month project that took place during February. During the month, six Estonian artists were invited to live and work at the Art Hub and given the chance to explore and take part in the local Arab culture.

Although the United Arab Emirates is mostly known as a winter vacation destination for northern Europeans, the region is culturally very active and ambitious: three world-class museums – Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi – will be opened in a few years’ time.

The Abu Dhabi Art Hub was established in 2012, when the owner/founder Ahmed Al Yafei turned an old industrial building into cosy live/work space. Since then, it has become an international art centre, visited by many global artists. The intention of the Art Hub is to have a cross-cultural dialogues and through collaboration to learn from each other.

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The initiator of the Estonian Art Month is Toomas Altnurme who has worked at the Emirates University since 2014. Five other artists, Katrin Karu, Tiiu Rebane, Jana Huul, Markus Kasemaa and Raivo Kelomees have joined him.

The Art Month has helped the artists get acquainted with the local art scene, as well as promoting Estonian art – they drove through the desert to see local art in Liwa oasis, while Markus Kasemaa guided a large drawing event at a local mall to draw attention to Estonian art at the Art Hub.

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The artists had also exclusive access to the Louvre Abu Dhabi construction site. Raivo Kelomees explained that the building, designed by Jean Nouvel, was inspired by a typical Arab marketplace that is covered in palm leaves through which the sunlight oozes in – the building is constructed so that it will let in unsymmetrical, moving spots of sunshine. “There is a clear sense of strong direction and increased emphasis on world-class culture in the Emirates. As the place is culturally active and fast developing, it’s a good opportunity for Estonian artists and Estonia to be seen and recognised,” Kelomees said.

Estonian Art Month

During the stay at the Abu Dhabi Art Hub, all the residing Estonian artists created at least three artworks for the exhibition. The most used mediums are paintings, but there also are sculptures (Jaana Huul and Toomas Altnurme) and video-installations (Raivo Kelomees).

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Estonian artists at the Abu Dhabi Art Hub

Toomas Altnurme

AltnurmeToomas Altnurme is an internationally recognised sculptor, painter and installation artist, whose sculptures and artworks are in the collections of more than 50 countries around the globe – in museums, private collections, parks and public spaces. Since 2014, he has taught fine art at the United Arab Emirates University.

Altnurme´s works represent intuitive contemplation – praising light and sun. In his works, he tries to perpetuate positive energy and brightness. Through colours and symbols of luck, peace and balance, he attempts to build bridges between different cultures.

Tiiu Rebane

Rebane_Blue GoldTiiu Rebane started as an installation artist in 1994. In 1999, she got an MA from the Estonian Academy of Arts as a painter. She works with concept of room, existentialism and poetical documentary. Her works are presented in the collection of the Estonian Contemporary Art Museum, KUMU, and in private collections. Since 2013, she has worked as an independent art curator. The series of six works, made during her residency in Abu Dhabi, were constructed on the basis of pop art: on the findings of some distilled poetic images and geometric patterns which could characterise Arab insight, and on comparing these symbols with Estonian analogues.

Katrin Karu

Katrin Karu likes to create expressive colourful canvases. Her structural and large-sized paintings have been purchased by private collectors in Germany, France, Japan and Estonia. She graduated from the Tallinn University, studying art, technical drawing and advertising.

“I mostly paint large expressive paintings, using mixed media on canvas. Usually my subject is a human being – a woman; a human in solitude and in pain; their happiness, kindness and thoughtfulness. With every painting, I want to reach the point where they start to express feelings, to tell a story on their own, to embrace the harmony between brute force and tenderness,” Karu said to Estonian World.

Karu

“Abu Dhabi and the rest of the land are very different from Estonia. The heat and dryness have created an opposite environment to the one I am used to. There is no luscious greenery, no forests. The people are open and talkative; the culture is rich in poetry and traditions. But I believe that deep down, we all have the same thoughts and feelings, joys and yearnings. People have so many feelings they’re unable to express. When you put those feelings on canvas, you make them real,” Karu explained.

Jana Huul

HuulJana Huul is an artist, curator and an art education developer. She graduated from the Tartu Art College as a sculptor and received an MA in art pedagogy from the Estonian Academy of Arts. She leads one of the biggest galleries in southern Estonia and is also an organiser behind the project to introduce schools to the art world and artists.

Huul’s big passion is textile art as a medium, Nordic fashion and design. She embeds fragments and its influences into a form based art works. Huul is also inspired by world of patterns and rhythms, old cultural traditions, natural forms and cityscape.

She said the UAE has inspired her a lot, namely the rich, clear and monumental architectural forms of Abu Dhabi. In her current creation at the Art Hub, she focusses on architectural forms and connects Estonian handicraft with a world of archaic patterns. The artist has created textile forms that are inspired by desert houses and mosques – an archaic and magnificent play of symbols through colour spots.

Raivo Kelomees

Raivo Kelomees, an artist, critic and new media researcher, has a PhD in art history from the Estonian Academy of Arts. He is painter, designer of interactive artworks and writes articles on new media and art in general.

With his works, he tries give answer to questions like, “what is the past before past?”, “what would visual art look like without cultural influences?”, “what would be the most ancient form and shape you can imagine connected to Estonia?”

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Kelomees has designed, 3D printed, 3D animated, drawn and painted different views of an invented, artificial fossil, which is based on real fossils found at places where oil shale is excavated in Estonia. These fossil forms are related to still the most important source of energy, fossil oil – plenty of which is found also in the United Arab Emirates. Kelomees’ project “Fossil” is a research and homage to these organic and fossil forms that are still sources of wealth and economic activity for many countries.

Markus Kasemaa

Markus Kasemaa is active in visual art (painting, drawing), conceptual art and artistic intervention. He is also business mentor and creativity lecturer (he recently talked at the “Innovation Arabia 8” conference in Dubai).

He is passionate about creativity and innovation. He promotes unconventional ideas, such as “buying art is crime against culture” or “bad art is good art”, under a set of concepts, which he calls “red pill of art” – an alternative practice of creation, distribution, experiencing and role of art. He ignores mainstream art system, rarely exhibits at traditional galleries, and prefers offices (Skype, Fujitsu, TransferWise), schools and streets.

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Kasemaa’s artworks are subconsciously born from the lines of spontaneous drawing, never knowing what will come out of it, while in the end intuitively addressing wide characteristics of a person and a society.

“Despite impressive energy of the owner of the Abu Dhabi Art Hub, Ahmed Saleh Al Yafei, while taking us to most interesting and often unexpected places, a month is only barely enough to start getting a glimpse of the deeper levels of the society and people. But this short period is fortunately more than enough to develop a strong wish to come back and dig deeper. Thus my art project here is called ‘Scratching the surface’. So, like me, the viewers are welcome to mentally ‘scratch the surface’ of my artworks and try to find out their own interpretations,” Kasemaa said.

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Cover photo by Toomas Altnurme

Estonian artist Andres Sütevaka opens an exhibition in Barcelona

The Estonian artist Andres Sütevaka opens his personal exhibition, “De la pintura la ceramica”, at the ACC Gallery of the Potters Association of Catalonia in Barcelona.

Sütevaka has been living in Spain since January 2014, creating sculptures and ceramics. He is a third-year sculpture student at the Tartu Art College, which also gave him the chance to study at Escola D’Art I Superior De Disseny Pau in Barcelona through the Erasmus programme.

Andres Sütevaka

Three main subjects dominate in Sütevaka’s works of art: the figurative and abstract paintings in bright colours and on large canvasses; the so-called homemade wine project (influenced by the bohemian and hedonistic life of a metropolis of art); and the politically critical and radical collages and assemblages (linked to pop art). In Spain, during which now may be seen as his independent period, the artist has concentrated in ceramics.

The exhibition, “Pintura de la ceramica”, is Sütevaka’s second personal exhibition in Spain. The first exhibition, “El Meu Circ a Barcelona”, was held in autumn 2014 at the cultural factory of Barcelona, La Farinera del Clot.

The exhibition will be open from 15 August until 4 September.

An Ethiopian in Tallinn, circa 1903

In the early twentieth century Estonian artist Ants Laikmaa created beautiful portraits of Ethiopians and North Africans, while still developing a distinct Estonian art. The range of his portraiture reveals the tolerance and acceptance in Estonia over a century ago.

Estonia has always been multicultural, yet recent debates about EU migration quotas tend to suggest otherwise. “We do not want to become minorities in our own country!” many claim. Estonia may seem to be relatively homogenous in 2015, but immigrants are nothing new to the country. In fact, we have visual documentation of multiculturalism in Estonia from over one hundred years ago. One of the most stunning examples comes from a series of portraits painted by the Estonian artist, Ants Laikmaa (1866-1942).

Capturing the vitality of the people

Laikmaa was part of a seminal group of Estonian artists who sought to create a distinctly Estonian art in the early twentieth century. In the era of the Young Estonia movement, the art of Laikmaa and his colleagues aimed to further Estonian high culture.

Part of this project included elegant portraits of the Estonian intelligentsia, such as this painting depicting the young poetess Marie Under, among others.

Originally from the Haapsalu region, Laikmaa was also interested in Estonian peasants, their traditions and their folk clothing. In elevating Estonian peasants as worthy subjects of portrait paintings – a subject long considered appropriate only for the elite – Laikmaa captured the vitality of the Estonian people.

Works such as Girl from Läänemaa are typical of this endeavor. What is striking is that a photograph of Laikmaa with his family at his atelier in Haapsalu clearly depicts Girl from Läänemaa on an easel next to another painting in progress: Abyssinian.

Laikmaa painted Abyssinian in 1903, the same year he painted Girl from Läänemaa. Laikmaa stayed in Estonia throughout all of 1903, so he became acquainted with the model for Abyssinian in Estonia, not abroad.

The African model in a diverse environment

Laikmaa himself was a convivial fellow, and his studio in Tallinn was often home to Estonians and Germans, intellectuals and simple men, noblemen and gypsies, the literati and the bourgeois, royalists and revolutionaries. In such a diverse environment, the African model for Laikmaa’s painting would have certainly been welcome. While one biographer wrote in 1961 that the figure in Abyssinian was “an African who somehow found his way to Tallinn”, art historians revealed as early as 1932 that this man’s name was Samuel Peters.

But why do we care about this portrait of Samuel Peters? The answer is in the title. The word Abyssinian was an ethnonym for Abyssinia, an older name for the Ethiopian Empire.

The Russian Empire began trade with Ethiopia already in the 1880s, and by the 1890s, Ethiopian delegations were sent to the Russian Empire. As an important port city close to St Petersburg, Tallinn could have been an important stop for those Ethiopian delegations, perhaps explaining how Peters arrived to Tallinn.

Ethiopia was also important in the early twentieth century for another reason: it was one of the few African countries to avoid European colonialism. The victory of Menelek II, Emperor of Ethiopia, over Italian forces in 1896 became a testament to African strength and vitality. As a minority within the Russian Empire, Estonians were especially critical of the tyrannous European regimes in Africa. That Ethiopians represented indigenous victory in an imperial age was perhaps admirable for Estonians like Laikmaa, who sought cultural autonomy for his own people.

An expression of admiration and common humanity

The question remains: why is the portrait of Samuel Peters next to Laikmaa’s Girl from Läänemaa? We can note some similarities if we compare the two paintings. Both figures are cropped within the canvas, both figures wear either a scarf or a pink and white head garment. Importantly, the photograph reveals that Laikmaa was still in the process of completing Abyssinian, and the similarities between this portrait and Girl from Läänemaa suggest the artist sought to articulate a commonality.

By 1903 Estonians had been liberated from serfdom for over half a century, but the dark spectre of the so-called “700-year-long night of slavery” loomed large over Estonians in the early twentieth century.

Since both Ethiopians and Estonians were recently liberated from foreign oppressors, resulting in independence for the former and increasing cultural autonomy for the latter, the similarities between Laikmaa’s Abyssinian and Girl from Läänemaa suggest not hierarchical difference, but rather an expression of admiration and common humanity.

Laikmaa’s portrait of Samuel Peters is not merely an instance of an “exotic” figure in Estonia. It is a visual testament to tolerance and acceptance in the country.

About ten years later, Laikmaa created a series of portraits of North Africans, which he brought back to Tallinn in 1913. Paintings such as Black Boy are routinely considered to be some of the best works of Laikmaa’s career. These images of Ethiopians and North Africans do not tarnish Laikmaa’s reputation as an important figure in Estonian national culture. The care with which he rendered portraits of Africans is just as delicate and nuanced as that with which he painted his fellow compatriots. Today they peacefully coexist in museum collections across Estonia, revealing the beauty of diversity.

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Cover: Ants Laikmaa at his Haapsalu studio with sisters Anni and Mai. Please consider making a donation for the continuous improvement of our publication.

Ilon Wikland: “All along, I’ve been trying to paint the emotions”

Ilon Wikland is an Estonian-Swedish artist and illustrator, renowned for her illustrations for the world-famous Swedish children author Astrid Lindgren.

Born in Tartu in 1930, and raised in Haapsalu, on Estonia’s western coast, Wikland fled from the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1944 and found a safe haven in Sweden.

A talented illustrator, she applied for a job as illustrator at Rabén & Sjögren in 1953 and was introduced to Lindgren, who had just finished writing the book Mio, my Son and who could see immediately that Wikland was able to “draw fairy tales”. Wikland did a test-drawing for the book and this was the start of the long-term collaboration with Lindgren. Wikland later said Lindgren’s writing made her see inner pictures. In the same way that Lindgren wrote for “the child within her”, Wikland often also drew for the child within her.

Among other Lindgren’s books, Wikland illustrated The Bullerby ChildrenThe Brothers LionheartKarlsson-on-the-Roof; and Ronya, the Robber’s Daughter.

Madli Jõks caught up with Wikland to talk about her grand portfolio.

Ilon Wikland Bullerby II

They’re like old friends to me: Children of Bullerby; Ronya, the Robber´s Daughter; Little Tjorven; and all the others. I know and remember them from my childhood and think back at them as if they had really existed in my life. And, although their stories from Astrid Lindgren were brilliant, I would probably never have been that affected, if the characters had not been brought to life by the magnificent illustrations of Ilon Wikland. I remember looking at the pictures again and again, trying to figure out which exact moment from the story was on every one of them.

Now I had an amazing opportunity to meet all of my childhood favourites in original at Ilon Wikland’s jubilee exhibition in Berlin at LesArt, the Berlin Centre for Children’s and Youth’s Literature.

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Wikland, widely known and recognised children’s books’ illustrator, was born in Estonia in 1930 and spent her childhood in Haapsalu, but moved to Sweden as a war refugee at the age of 14. However, tragic destiny led to lucky chance: in Sweden, nine years later she met Astrid Lindgren, who became her dear friend and a work partner for decades.

Illustrations for Lindgren’s books are the ones Wikland is mostly known for, but she has also illustrated books of several other authors (for example Ann Mari Falk, Marlen Haushofer, Hans Peterson), and even fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen and brothers Grimm, as well as some non-fiction books. Now 85, she is still active and from 2005 onwards, she has cooperated with children’s books’ author Mark Levengood.

At the exhibition in LesArt, more than 150 Wiklands works – drawings, aquarelles and pastels – can be seen. In addition to the illustrations, free drawings and fashion sketches are presented. This is the first Wikland’s overview exhibition in Germany.

Harry Liivrand, the Estonian cultural attaché in Berlin, writes in the exhibition brochure that the most important goal of the exhibition was to bring out the autobiographic background of Wiklands works – to emphasise the elements of Estonia and Haapsalu that are often depicted in her works. The Estonian ambassador to Berlin, Kaja Tael, adds that the idea to bring Wikland’s exhibition to Germany was born from the knowledge that the Germans share Estonian love for Lindgrens’ books.

Karlson

For me, visiting the exhibition felt somehow more than just visiting an art exhibition – it felt like meeting a part of my childhood again. And the pictures were still as great as they were back then. I walked from one exhibition room to another, a smile in my face, marvelling at the preciseness of the paintings and the naturalness of the characters.

As a grownup, I understand why I admired the pictures as a kid and preferred books with them to all the other ones: Wikland doesn’t cheat. The characters, the rooms and other objects in the pictures look like they looked in the story, details are right and interesting. Wikland understands that children are the most attentive audience.

Wikland says that before drawing, she always reads the text several times very carefully and only when she understands it very well, she begins to draw. “The text is most important,” she says.

It seems to me that for a great artist as she is, she has surprisingly little ambition to interpret things in her own way. But the willingness to work with the author has probably made her that great as an illustrator. And perhaps this is why a child, looking at her pictures, never has to be disappointed about how the characters or a scene looks like.

When I ask Wikland about her relationship and cooperation with Lindgren, which lasted for 40 years, she also emphasises the great understanding between them about the content of the story. “We always talked everything through and she was very willing to answer all of my questions. Our cooperation with Astrid was really smooth and it was a beautiful and good time,” she recalls.

In those 70 years Wikland has worked as an illustrator, has there been one book that she would bring out as a favourite or a very special one? Without a second hesitation she answers: this would be Lindgren’s Brothers Lionheart. “It’s a very important book to me and I like the story very much – it contains a lot of topics, that in my opinion, a child has to learn to understand.”

Brothers Lionheart

Wikland’s style has developed a lot over time. Her first illustrations were black and white graphical works, later she mostly used watercolours and pastels. Wikland says that the depicted characters became livelier as time moved on. She thinks that in her earlier works it was noticeable that back then she had no children of her own yet.

She says the cooperation with Levengood has given her the opportunity to develop a new direction. “I find it very important to constantly change and evolve my drawing style. You can’t draw the same way all the time,” says the grand lady of illustrations, who could have given up trying to be better decades ago, and still be an absolutely excellent illustrator.

I have always thought that pictures like Wiklands’ have to be drawn with an intention to show the world as a child sees it, but Wikland says that she has always drawn just the way she herself likes it.

Maybe she is just one of those lucky people who haven’t forgotten how the world looks like for a child. Although, her own childhood wasn’t an easy one at all. The divorce of her parents and the leaving of her mother, escaping to Sweden alone on a refugee ship and a serious illness were the challenges she had to live through as a child.

Wikland says that Lindgren probably understood what kind of life experience she had gone through, and her desire for a secure childhood reflected in her drawings.

Can the illustrator herself explain why so many people find her style that touching? “All along, I’ve been trying to paint emotions,” she says, “So that a person, looking at my paintings, could see the feelings.” And this is probably the very answer.

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Find out more about Ilon Wikland from her web page. Estonian World thanks Estonian Embassy in Berlin for their help in bringing this article to you. Cover: Ilon Wikland (photo by Priit Simson/Eesti Päevaleht).

A London gallery showcases art by emerging Estonian artists

An exhibition at the Gabo Manchano Gallery in London is showcasing the art by emerging Estonian artists Lilian Hiob, Saskia Järve, Mauri Gross, Gerli Kont and Ulla Juske.

The exhibition, organised in collaboration with Leyden Gallery and called ERROR, will showcase the interplay where each artist observes the faults made unintentionally through their own artistic interpretations.

Hiob captures everyday errors seen in the Tallinn urban life by photographing them. She is interested in exploring errors that have happened due to man-made mistakes, or because of the lack of man’s interest to their surroundings. The possibility of creating a new art piece in public space makes it somehow very fascinating in its beautiful uniqueness.

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Järve is captivated by the complex errors that are connected with human nature and psychology. She mixes photography and drawing to depict delusions of grandeur of people’s dreams and how it is in an erroneous relationship with the real world where we live in.

The work of  Gross explores errors relating to the overvaluation of gold and money in the art world, questioning through his painting of how we should calculate the value of an artwork.

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Kont is fascinated by the communication errors of the visual arts between the artist and the audience. Her drawings delicately leave spaces in the narrative to create possibilities for different interpretations.

Juske is exhibiting an installation based on one of the bizarre stories she collects. It explores implements on the verge of absurdity with the purpose of escaping from unwanted male attention.

The bringing of these five emerging artists together in London for the ERROR exhibition aims to contribute to our comprehension of everyday encounters of errors in our lives.

Founded in November 2013, the Gabo Manchano Gallery is the UK’s only art gallery dedicated to the presentation of Estonian emerging contemporary artists. As a pop-up contemporary styled gallery, Gabo Manchano Gallery occupies different locations throughout London.

ERROR: Estonian art in London

31 March – 4 April 2015

Private view: 31 March at 6:30 pm – 9 pm

Leyden Gallery, 9/9a Leyden Street,

London, E1 7LE

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Cover: Saskia Järve – “Mirage” (2008).

Estonian artist Kiwa to give a performance in New York

Estonian artist Kiwa is to give a performance and a lecture in New York on 24 March, titled “Hippies without acid – in memory of A. Hoffmann”.

According to one of the curators of the event, Mary Jordan, the Estonian multimedia artist Kiwa will be giving an audio-sound performance, followed by a presentation on Soviet sound culture, on Tuesday, 24 March 6:30-8:30 pm at the new experimental artist-run space in Vinegar Hill at 54 Hudson Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

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“The performance will blend hypnotic electronic soundscapes and rich sounds with minimalistic visuals, creating a total immersive experience,” Jordan said. “The lecture utilises music and video in discussing the experimental sound art and dissident rock music of Estonian counterculture made in the Soviet Union between 1960-1988, a time in which cultural production was under state control, avant-garde art was forbidden and rock music was repressed.”

KIWA

Jordan said that in Estonia, Kiwa “is a cultural icon and multidisciplinary artist whose work blends various media, from conceptual objects to total audiovisual environments.”

Kiwa’s artistic practice includes painting, sculpture and installation, video, performance, sound art, scenography, and text, Jordan added.

Kumu included among the 10 best European contemporary art museums

Culture Trip, the UK-based digital platform for global culture and lifestyle, has included the modern art museum Kumu in the Estonian capital among the best contemporary art galleries in Europe.

“One of the many emerging contemporary galleries in Eastern Europe, the Kumu in Tallinn, Estonia, sets itself apart from many with its excellent curation and gorgeous new building,” the Culture Trip said.

“Exploring Estonian art from the 18th century onwards, it is at its best when it shows the work made in during its Soviet occupation, juxtaposing Soviet Realism with non-comformist works to devastating effect. As the Kumu shows, this combination of its Soviet history and its underground non-conformism is played out in its interesting contemporary section, detailing Estonian art now, a clearly fascinating history illuminating the work of many,” it added.

The top 10 list is led by Tate Modern in London, Centre Pompidou in Paris and Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain.

The Kumu Art Museum, located in Tallinn’s Kadriorg Park, is one of the largest art museums in the Baltics and one of the largest ones in the Nordic countries. It received the European Museum of the Year Award in 2008 by European Museum Forum. The stunning building was designed by a Finnish architect Pekka Vapaavuori and completed in 2008.

Estonian artist Kaido Ole among the “100 Painters of Tomorrow”

The Estonian artist, Kaido Ole, has been chosen among the “100 painters of Tomorrow”, an art exhibition and a book authored by the famed London gallerist, Kurt Beers, and published by the Anglo-American publishing house, Thames & Hudson.

“100 Painters of Tomorrow” is the result of a major new project to find the “100 most exciting, up-and-coming painters at work today”, the publishers said. The publication introduces and presents the work of a global cast of painters selected by an international panel featuring prominent names in contemporary art.

The new talent in painting from across the world was gathered through an open call for submission that drew over 4,300 artists.

Kaido Ole was the only Estonian artist to be selected.

“For me, it was very instructive to choose ten paintings for the competition. I sensed that others might see them very differently from me. It was immensely interesting to see what works were picked up by the curator for the Thames & Hudson book,” Ole said to the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Centre.

“Obviously, I’m glad to have been selected, because the book will be distributed widely and preserved for long. People can always pick it up and refresh their memories, while the exhibitions are temporal,” he added.

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Ole’s paintings are currently on display at the One Art Space gallery in New York and the book itself will be launched in London on 27 November. Ole’s solo exhibition will also open in Tallinn on 27 November.

A former teacher and now a TV presenter, Ole began producing art around the time Estonia regained its independence in 1991. He represented Estonia at the Venice Biennale in 2003, together with Marko Mäetamm.

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Cover: Kaido Ole’s ” Still Life with Freak and Tin Flower” (oil and acrylic on canvas/2012).

A new art venture dedicated to Estonian art started in London

It doesn’t happen every day that an art gallery dedicated to Estonian art opens in a cosmopolitan metropolis like London. But the curiously named Gabo Manchano Gallery is doing just that – featuring four young Estonian artists, the gallery’s pop-up debut exhibition was entitled “This Is What I Am”.

The new concept is a brainchild of the London-based estophile Australian, Michael Channon. Besides dancing in the London’s Estonian Folk Dance Group and learning the secret lingua, he’s also into art, hence the idea to find a space in London for Estonian artists.

The debuting exhibition, “This Is What I Am”, took place in a hip neighbourhood of Clerkenwell in central London, and featured work by four young talented Estonian artists, each with their own unique vision of what they are and told to the audience in bold statements. Using various styles, Karolin Ott (the gallery’s co-director, based in London), Veiko Klemmer (Tartu), Margit Lõhmus (Tartu/Tallinn) and Katrin Rätte (Tallinn) set to present their true identity and experience. The exhibition included original paintings and mixed media installations with contemporary styles; all capturing the same statement of “This Is What I Am”.

Katrin Rätte works _100x This is what I am_

Estonian World caught up with the exhibition curators and directors, Michael Channon and Karolin Ott, to find out more about the motivation behind the challenging task of running an art gallery in London – let alone dedicated to art from a small country like Estonia.

What prompted you to open an art galley in London, dedicated to Estonian art?

Michael: I did it because of one of the artists, who was a friend of mine, was talking to me about her experiences coming to London and not find any connections to the art world to exhibit her work. The cultural experience for her was also alienating, and she found it all a bit too overwhelming. I was thinking about helping somehow, but I didn’t know how. I, also at the time of thinking to help, found that my work was not at satisfying, and then it all just fell into place, and I found myself thinking about creating an art gallery.

Karolin: Well, as being a young Estonian artist myself, I also had experienced the difficulties of entering the art world. Weirder than that, for me, it was even harder in Estonia than in a foreign country. In Estonia I also had to do a full-time job as well, but for a long time I had that feeling that I’d rather want to be an entrepreneur rather than work for someone else. My idea was to open my own gallery some day. And then I met that right person – Michael – and we did this together.

What was the preparation process like – what challenges did you face? How did you find the space and how did you fund it?

Michael: The preparation took months, as we were novices at this. We used our intuition and good sense of judgement to create the gallery. Opening the gallery was the easy part – we discovered the space quite simple to find, thanks to our friend who had been a curator himself for many years and he informed us about the space – it was in a great location.

Karolin_Ott_This is what I am_

Karolin: We faced many challenges in that we were trying to do everything ourselves, and this took a lot of time and effort. While Michael did a full-time day job to fund our gallery project, I spent most of my time by applying grants, finding sponsors, designing our web page and marketing materials, learning how to communicate with a press. But we never thought we were over our heads and therefore knew that what we were doing was going to be achieved.

Where did the slightly exotic sounding name come from?

Michael: I came to this name during walking through the Barbican’s exhibition on pop-art when my thoughts were focused on the pop-art kind of ideology about transformation and flexibility. The name literally means nothing – either in Estonian or in English. It is purely made up on the spot.
Karolin: I think this name came into Michael’s head because it is a bit similar to his own name.
Michael: True.

On what basis did you choose the currently represented Estonian artists?

Michael: Two of the artists we had were friends of mine from Estonia. Karolin, I met at an Estonian folk dance practice where we both participate. Veiko Klemmer was recommended to me by a good friend who went to school with him.
Karolin: For our upcoming curatorial projects we are going to make open calls to give everybody an opportunity to submit their works.

What has been the feedback so far?

Michael: We have been inundated with positive feedback, both from friends and strangers alike. We have art collectors commenting on the works with great interest and enthusiasm for our idea to be fully focused on Estonia. Also, we are currently in discussion with Goldsmith’s University and other gallery institutions. Our biggest excitement is that we are presently talking to the Estonian Embassy on future projects, which they are willing to support, and this has given us the biggest drive to further our gallery idea.

Did any Estonian organisation or community help along to get it opened?

Michael: Simple answer, no. However, we had a support from the Estonian Embassy in London, courtesy of the cultural attaché, Kristel Oitmaa, who was supportive from the very beginning as we contacted her about the idea we had.

Karolin: We also had support from the London Estonian Society, the Estonian Guild and from friends of the Estonian community in London who forwarded our invites on our behalf. But most importantly, the artists themselves were very positive and creative from the outset.

What are your plans for the future?

Michael: We have decided the best route for the gallery is to be independent of space – meaning that we are going to be a pop-up gallery primarily around London.

Michael and Karolin

KarolinBut right now we are in talks with organisers in Estonia to find a space to exhibit “This Is What I Am” also  in Tallinn in September or October. This is about introducing ourselves to the Estonian community at large, but also to show artists our concept of what we are trying to achieve in London.

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Cover photo: Exhibition view/courtesy of Gabo Manchano Gallery.

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