Alone in the City. Ludmilla Siim and Jüri Palm

April 29 – August 28, 2011
Kumu Art Museum, 4th floor, B-wing


The exhibition creates a dialogue between two Estonian artists from the second half of the 20th century who painted cityscapes, two artists whose work from the 1970s and 1980s addresses the various means of perceiving the urban environment. Although Ludmilla Siim (1938) and Jüri Palm (1937–2002) belong to the same generation of artists, which was influenced by Pop Art and Hyperrealism, one can say that each of them had a personal and original relationship with urban surroundings – both were alone in the city.


Ludmilla Siim’s city is bright and modern, not so much the Tallinn that was emerging in the seventies, but rather a future model of the city. It includes the most modern sections of urban space: Tallinn with its first glassy high-rise buildings and young city dwellers in new residential areas. Jüri Palm’s city is an imaginary nocturnal metropolis. Its residents resemble the heroes from the Western movies of the day – “motoanthropoids” speeding through piles of litter, gangsters wearing jeans outfits, female vamps with bright red lips, and solitary flâneurs wearing brimmed hats.


Both Siim and Palm depicted artistic metropolises that had little to do with the city that actually surrounded the artists at the time. We can find true urban kaleidoscopes in their canvases, as well as big city vertigo and metropolitan erotica. At the same time, Tallinn in the seventies was a city that had just gained its first few “international-style” high-rise buildings. There were no escalators yet, no corn-cob looking Olympia Hotel, no TV tower, Linnahall, four-lane Pirita Road, TOP sailing centre or new airport. Therefore, we can search for the reaction to modernisation in Siim’s and Palm’s city mirages: the fears and desires, visions, dizziness and phantasmagoria that accompany societal change.


The present exhibition is the first retrospective of Ludmilla Siim – she left Tallinn to live in Helsinki in 1977 and was therefore considered a persona non grata in Soviet Estonia. A retrospective exhibition of the earlier city-themed work of Jüri Palm has also not been compiled before. In these paintings, subjects and themes appear that haunted Palm until his last personal exhibition, “Tallinn Lights”, in 2002.


The exhibition includes the best of the city-themed paintings by Ludmilla Siim and Jüri Palm from the Art Museum of Estonia, the Tallinn Art Hall, the Tartu Art Museum, the Art Museum of the University of Tartu, the Estonian History Museum, the Viinistu Art Museum and private collections. The designer of the exhibition is Jaanus Samma.


At the exhibition opening, the catalogue that will accompany the exhibition will be presented. The catalogue is in Estonian and in English, and it includes colour reproductions and articles by Liisa Kaljula and Eha Komissarov. The catalogue was designed by Tuuli Aule.

The exhibition in the Kumu Art Museum, on the fourth floor of the B-wing, will be open until 28 August 2011.