The grotesque on show in Modernist exhibit

  • 2014-10-01
  • By TBT staff

TALLINN - Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn invites you to the exhibition Our Modernism. Estonian Sculpture in the 1960s–1970s. The three-dimensional pieces on display offer both aesthetic pleasure and a historical overview of an era which focused on the meaningfulness of shapes, on new materials, and on universal human ideas.
“As is characteristic of classic Estonian Modernist sculpture, the works displayed are beautiful and have an extraordinarily positive emotional effect,” says the curator Juta Kivimae about the exhibition.
“All the sculptures come from an era which we have started to forget; we seldom consider how up-to-date with modern trends in art our local artists were in those decades.”

At the end of the 1950s, Estonian artists were once again able to form links with various trends in the West. They could visit the first foreign art exhibitions in Moscow and Leningrad, and the World’s Fair in Brussels. A sculpture exhibition for the Baltic republics took place in Riga and an exhibition on Finnish art was held at the Tallinn’s Art Hall.
New materials – chamotte, aluminum, epoxy resin, plastics and dolomite – gave new meanings to sculptures. The movement towards abstract art had to be rediscovered, as the pre-war sculptors had not managed to make it an inherent part of the Estonian artistic tradition. The modernist shapes of monuments created at that time undermined the authority of socialist realism.

A new aesthetic emerged in all areas of art in the 1970s in which sculpture artists in general focused more on the meaningfulness of forms.
“Young sculptors combined both abstract and figurative elements, thus creating witty constructs and giving shape to universal human philosophical ideas,” Kivimae explains. “New subject matter was introduced to Estonian sculpture, forms became more grotesque and the sense of reality became twisted. A generation of young female artists, with their themes and aesthetic, drew attention in the art scene.”

The exhibition is accompanied by the museum program Imagination, which introduces this innovative era in the Estonian art scene, and also artists who followed Modernism, through various materials and forms. The content of the program can be adjusted to the size, type and special needs of a group, for instance visually impaired visitors.
With the help of thorough descriptions and sensing with one’s own hands, people can get an idea of the oeuvre of different sculptors and Estonian Modernism in general.
The museum game Sculpture Detectives is also available; it is suitable for children in any age group and requires answering questions that awaken the child’s creativity. Participants in the game are welcome to a free curator tour on Nov. 1.

Also, a booklet with short summaries in Estonian and English, which gives an overview of Estonian Modernist sculptors, is available free of charge in the exhibition hall.
Works of art on display come from the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia, Tartu Art Museum, Tallinn Art Hall and Estonian History Museum, as well as from private collections.
Exhibition will be on the display through Nov. 23.


“Our Modernism. Estonian Sculpture in the 1960s–1970s.”
Kumu Art Museum
A. Weizenbergi 34, Tallinn, Estonia