Published 27/11/2023 | 16:29

A creative dialogue is set up in Kumu between the Italian Transavantgarde and Estonian Calm Expressionism

Enzo Cucchi (1949). Euphoric Music (Musica ebbra). 1982. Oil, mixed media and metal collage on canvas. Collezione D’Ercole, Rome. Photo: Corrado de Grazia

On 1 December, the exhibition Borderless Universe in Their Minds: Italian Transavantgarde and Estonian Calm Expressionism will open in the Great Hall of the Kumu Art Museum. The exhibition focuses on fascinating dialogues between works by Italian and Estonian artists from the second half of the 1980s.

The exhibition provides a representative overview of the oeuvre of the Transavanguardia group of artists who entered the art scene at the end of the 1970s. The works displayed here come from Italian private collections and museums and have been juxtaposed with the oeuvre of Raoul Kurvitz (1961) and Urmas Muru (1961), who reformed the Estonian art field in the second half of the 1980s. Although born on the other side of the Iron Curtain, Calm Expressionism (a term coined by the artists themselves) of Kurvitz and Muru is like a Nordic reflection of the Italian Transavantgarde.

“The Transavanguardia group evolved in Italy in direct opposition to the socially oriented and analytical art of the preceding decades. The critic Achille Bonito Oliva (1939), who was the leader of the group, and the artists Sandro Chia (1946), Francesco Clemente (1952), Enzo Cucchi (1949), Nicola De Maria (1954) and Mimmo Paladino (1948) regarded their activities as a mission, which was accompanied by a certain amount of creative arrogance,” said the curator of the exhibition, Fabio Cavallucci. Unlike the Italian context, the Rühm T movement established by Raoul Kurvitz and Urmas Muru did not wish to contradict the previous generations, but to initiate completely new ways of thinking and acting that merely ignored what came before.

“One of the aims of this exhibition from the point of view of the Art Museum of Estonia is to draw attention to the art of the 1980s in Estonia and to its significance in our recent art history. That period in art has been called “the lost decade”. The artists of the time kept a certain distance from the daily politics of the transition period, and the 1980s remained rather uninteresting for art history against the backdrop of the great upheavals that followed the re-establishment of the Estonian Republic. That is why this decade needs more active interpretations,” added Sirje Helme, a curator of the exhibition and the CEO of the Art Museum of Estonia.

An important principle that both the Transavantgarde and Rühm T advocated for was a subjective approach to art based on personality and emotions: the artist’s total creative and intellectual freedom. Their art was rooted in an existential tension, a sense of the transitoriness of human life in the totality of the universe. This tension manifested itself in a similar manner in the Transavantgarde and Calm Expressionism: in dramatic, mythological and metaphysical themes mainly in the genre of painting, which once again became the centre of attention.

The exhibition is accompanied by public and education programmes. The opening programme on Saturday, 2 December, will include events for the public. An English-language tour of the exhibition led by the exhibition curator Fabio Cavalluci will take place at 1 pm. At 2 pm, art connoisseurs are invited to take part in the tour At the Exhibition with the Artists with Raoul Kurvitz and Urmas Muru.

Starting at 3 pm, the final event of the opening programme will be a conversation between the curator Sirje Helme and the journalist Joonas Hellerma, which will focus on the exhibition and the art trends represented there, as well as interpretations of the terminology related to the movements. In addition, from 12 to 2 pm, the workshop Endless Painting will be available to children and families.

The exhibition of 86 works will remain open until 19 May 2024.

Exhibition team
Curators: Fabio Cavallucci and Sirje Helme
Exhibition design: Kaarel Eelma
Graphic design: Tuuli Aule
Education programme: Darja Andrejeva
Coordinator: Anastassia Langinen