On September 9th, the exhibition Children of the Flowers of Evil. Estonian Decadent Art will open at Kumu Art Museum

Art Museum of Estonia
Kumu Art Museum
Press release
31.08.2017

The exhibition takes the viewer into a decadent and Baudelaireian world, characterised by melancholia, cynicism and pessimism, but also by pleasures and a passion for the unusual or peculiar, including androgyny, narcissism and intoxicants.

The title of the exhibition derives from the notorious collection of poems by Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), issued in 1857. The collection was one of the first to analyse and critique the experience of modernisation. Baudelaire and his contemporaries were increasingly doubtful of the extremely fast and revolutionary outcomes of the modernisation process. Industrialisation, capitalism, the rise of the metropolis, increasing faith in science and continual progress, and many other social changes caused estrangement and fear, which manifested in considerable pessimism as well as a mood of degradation and abandon. On the other hand, decadence was not just a negative or destructive “force”, it also generated new and interesting meanings. Decadent art and literature synthesised beauty and ugliness, and often forayed into mysticism, questioned sexuality and gender roles, and emphasised opposition to the bourgeoisie by celebrating individualism. Decadent art was born as a reaction to very sudden social and cultural changes, but it was also characterised by delving into oneself and leaving the real world behind, allowing mental and perceptual disorders to meet various vices and taboos, and to create unnerving yet enchanting images.

Decadence reached Estonia at the beginning of the 20th century, soon after the country’s first steps had been taken in creating a national culture and Estonians were looking for their place on the scale of nationalism and Western modernity. The exhibition Children of the Flowers of Evil is the first study of early 20th Century Estonian decadent art. The exhibition displays several seldom seen and previously unexhibited works by artists including Eduard Wiiralt, Ado Vabbe, Erich Kügelgen, Aleksander Promet, Erna Brinckmann and Erik Obermann.

A book accompanying the exhibition will also be published.

The exhibition will remain open until 25 February 2018.

The press album of the exhibition can be accessed here.

Events for the public:

14 September at 6 pm
Tour of the exhibition with the curator Lola Annabel Kass

16 September at 2 pm
Introduction to the exhibition in Russian

19 October at 6 pm
Joint tour of the exhibitions Children of the Flowers of Evil and The Savages of Germany. The tour will be guided by the legendary art historian and curator Eha Komissarov. Death, eroticism and beauty will be studied, as well as their representations in Estonian decadent art and in works by the German expressionists.

Curator: Lola Annabel Kass
Exhibition designer: Liina Siib
Graphic designer: Angelika Schneider
Coordinators: Karin Pastak, Liis Pählapuu and Ragne Soosalu

Collections: Art Museum of Estonia, Tartu Art Museum, Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, Estonian National Library, Narva Museum, Estonian Literature Museum, Foundation Haapsalu and Läänemaa Museums, and private collections.

Cooperation partners and supporters:

UK

kultuurkapital

IF

liviko-mustvalge

Further information:

Karin Pastak
Exhibition coordinator
Tel +372 5883 8420
karin.pastak@ekm.ee