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Estonian Avant-Garde Art – exhibition

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Date: 17 – 23 August 1970

Participants: Enn Tegova (1946), Peeter Urbla (1945), Rein Tammik (1947), Vello Tamm (1940-1991), Ando Keskküla (1950-2008), Andres Tolts (1949), Leonhard Lapin (1947), and Sirje Runge (1950)

Location: Café Pegasus, Tallinn

The exhibition “Estonian Avant-Garde Art” that opened as part of the third International Finno-Ugric Days was supposed to become a group exhibition of the most radical Estonian art groups active at the time: ANK’64[1], Visarid[2], and SOUP’69. However, due to changes in the political situation[3], many artists decided not to participate.

The few faded photographs of the exhibition that have survived dynamically convey a sense of the exhibition itself as well as the space, which differs greatly from the white cube of the gallery. These are not anonymous shots of an exhibition; rather, they show the works in the social atmosphere of the café. The setting was probably important for creating the works as well. Most of the artworks are inspired by Pop Art—the notion of wanting to shock and grab attention is apprehensible. Urbla’s phallic object Kazachok made from patterned chintz, Tolts’s textile assemblages like the one titled Sleeping Place, and Lapin’s two readymades (pillows) all play with the idea of blurring the line between art and everyday objects. Relating to reality and its mass-produced objects—a concept stemming from Pop Art—leads to the idea of the artist’s need to intervene, which in turn becomes the agenda for the following years. This new role of the artist (and its unique accompanying capabilities) was also referenced on the exhibition poster, which displayed a red cross and a crescent moon along with the slogan, “Sick ones, we will heal you!”


[1] ANK’64 was the first artist’s group in the Soviet period. It formed 1964 from the students of printmaking at the State Institute of Art, including Tõnis Vint, Malle Leis (1940), Jüri Arrak (1936), Kristiina Kaasik (1943), Tiiu Pallo-Vaik (1941), Enno Ootsing (1940), Tõnis Laanemaa (1937), Aili Vint (1941), Marju Mutsu (1941-1980), Vello Tamm (1940-1991). Their pursuits in art were connected with youth culture, Pop and Op Art, as well as with the Avant-Gardes of the early 20th century.

[2] The artist’s group Visarid formed 1968 around the art studio of the Tartu State University and the head of the studio Kaljo Põllu (1934-2010). Other members were: Peeter Lukats (1933), Jaak Olep (1945-2000), Rein Tammik (1947), Enn Tegova (1946), Peeter Urbla (1945), et. al. Visarid advocated “total art”, art that do not design individual commodities, but reorganize the hole environment. The group dissolved 1972.

[3] In aftermath of the Prague Spring events the pressure on artists as well as other members of the society got higher,  the system got more repressive.


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Group Exhibition of Painting

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Date: 22 December 1977

Participants: Valentinas Antanavičius (1936), Eugenijus Cukermanas (1935), Kostas Dereškevičius (1937), Silvestras Džiaukštas (1928), Leonardas Gutauskas (1938), Leonas Katinas (1907-1984), Linas Katinas (1941), Vincas Kisarauskas (1934-1988), Algimantas Kuras (1940), Igoris Piekuras (1935-2006), Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė (1933-2007), Leopoldas Surgailis (1928), Arvydas Šaltenis (1944), Vytautas Šerys (1931-2006), Algirdas Šiekštelė (1931-2008), Ričardas Vaitiekūnas (1953), Nijolė Valadkevičiūtė (1944), and Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė (1933-1999).

Location: LSSR (Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) Art Workers’ Palace, Vilnius

The “Group Exhibition of Painting” was only open for a few days. A public presentation with the artists on the occasion of the exhibition at the LSSR Art Workers’ Palace was held on December 22, 1977. The event was moderated by the art critic Alfonsas Andriuškevičius (1940).

He recalls, “During a discussion of the exhibition, I simply moved from the work of one artist to the work of another, and interpreted them, giving slight hints at an evaluation. Again, I tried to show how the more innovative means of expression worked. Yet it was mostly artists who participated in the discussion, and so there did not seem to be any very skeptical reactions to these means of expression. Nevertheless, the participating painters were interested in hearing interpretations of their work, and in receiving a few critical insights, although I was by no means an authoritative figure.” Later, “during discussions of Valentinas Antanavičius’s and Eugenijus Antanas Cukermanas’s exhibitions at the Conservatory [in 1981 and 1982, respectively], I mostly had to explain to the public their unconventional means [assemblage and abstract art] of expression (for us), and to prove their legitimacy and functionality. Part of the audience was clearly averse to such art. Besides, I tried to demonstrate that those means of expression produced important meanings, and I tried to counteract the idea that they were just empty, formalist games.”[1]


[1] Alfonsas Andriuškevičius, excerpt from e-mail response, March 2011.


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