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Force majeure. The Destroyed and the Disappeared in Estonian Art

<i>Force majeure</i>. The Destroyed and the Disappeared in Estonian Art

Time: 04.03.16–26.06.16  11:00–18:00
Location: Kumu exhibition spaces

3rd floor, B-wing
In addition to the visible side of Estonian art, there is another, hidden one. It consists of individual works of art that have been destroyed or lost over time, and of whole periods of artists’ lives which have not been examined in detail. The fate of lost artworks has largely been determined by the force majeure of randomness and historical events. The surrounding reality has become part of the story of these objects. In the best cases, information about the works of art has reached us via old reproductions; however, the “black-and-white” history of art deserves more than just the acknowledgement of their loss. Our familiarity with Estonian artists and their oeuvre should not be limited to only the parts that have survived through the haphazard winds of history. Gathering fragments of information about the twilight area brings to light new facts about the lives of artists, the conditions they lived in, personal relationships with works of art, the role of various institutions in the choice of what to preserve and, naturally, the works of art themselves.

The goal of the exhibition and this text is primarily to provide a preliminary overview of the artworks that were lost or destroyed in the years 1900–1945. As the data about what is no more is extremely fragmentary and nearly non-existent, huge voids remain. Nevertheless, we can claim with conviction that in these 45 years more works of art than ever before or after were lost or destroyed. Pieces created during the republican years were mostly scattered during occupations and wars; the aerial and artillery bombardment of Tartu and Tallinn resulted in a number of stories about the destruction of artworks. Our first attempt to shed light on the complicated topic of lost Estonian works of art focuses on the state and private collections damaged in the mayhem of war, as well as on the oeuvre of outstanding contemporary artists, whose works formed the majority of the collections compiled in the 1920s to 1940s.

Curator: Liis Pählapuu
Exhibition design and graphic design: Liina Siib
Exhibition installation team: Mati Schönberg, Valmar Pappel, Andres Amos
Sound: Külli Tüli, Mirtel Pohla

Photos: archive of the Art Museum of Estonia, photo collection of the Tartu Art Museum,

photo collection of cultural history of the Library of the University of Tartu, Estonian Film Archives, Estonian Historical Archives, Estonian State Archives, Estonian Maritime Museum, Library of the Art Museum of Estonia, National Library of Estonia, Estonian Literary Museum, Estonian Archives of Cultural History, “Museums of Haapsalu and Läänemaa” foundation, and private archives.

We thank: Mai Levin, Tiiu Talvistu, Mare Joonsalu, Peeter Talvistu, Pekka Erelt, Enn Kunila, Indrek Ilomets, Eero Epner, Tiit Jürna, Ulrika Jõemägi, Helen Melesk, Külli Kaats, Rita Kroon, Anne Untera, Renita Raudsepp, Kaidi Vahar and Liina Siib

Edmond Arnold Blumenfeldt. Notre Dame in Paris. 1924. Destroyed