Collected Crises. Estonian Art in the 1990s

July 7, 2006 – April 15 2007
Kumu Art Museum, The Gallery


In compiling the exhibition, the curators have tried to approximate the context that reflected the art upheavals of the 1990s, through topics that describe the background and objectives of art from the 1990s. The concept of an actual and cultivated crisis is one of the threads that draws together the colourful 1990s. The word “crisis” comes from the Greek, and means withdrawal, change, interruption, and displacement.


Of course, one can speak of a crisis in the art of 1990s throughout Eastern Europe in the most direct and non-metaphoric sense, and this at the level of the institutional framework of artistic life and its financing system (together with the shock, reaction, and processing period that accompanies the classic concept of crisis). The collapse of the art financing system at the beginning of the 1990s along with the change in the system of government took place simultaneously with the loss of the special status assigned to art and the assimilation and domestication of new artistic idioms from the globalizing art space.


Therefore, the crisis was actually three-fold, taking place simultaneously in the fields of economic, symbolic, and idiomatic values. The younger generation perceived the loss of the symbolic position of art as a natural starting point, by orientating on searches for new types of communication. After the creation of the Soros’s Center for Contemporary Arts, Estonia, which was orientated to innovative programs and the broad-based Estonian Cultural Endowment of Estonia (in 1993 and 1995 respectively), one can also speak of institutional support that fostered the creation, distribution, and introduction of a new type of artistic creation. The reorientation of the purchasing policies of the Art Museum of Estonia to the acquisition of innovative art managed to save quite a bit of the spontaneously developed artistic production of the time, which proceeded from the insecurity resulting from the devaluation of value judgments only in momentary interests and operated in the mode of the “here and now”.


When speaking of art from the 1990s, we can also not ignore the fact the art operates in an every clearer expectation of media attention, and for a long time, the crisis in this sense has not been limited to existential situations, but rather changed into an open stage for presenting different beliefs.


Curators of the exhibition are Eha Komissarov and Hanno Soans