Paul Kuimet’s photographs of Estonian monumental paintings at Kumu

Art Museum of Estonia
Kumu Art Museum

Press release no. 96

The exhibition “Notes on Space. Photos by Paul Kuimet” is open in the Cabinet of Prints and Drawings of the Kumu Art Museum from 9 October 2013 to 5 January 2014. The works on display are the first documentation of the genre of monumental art that ties in with diverse aspects of Estonia’s recent past and art history, and ranges from glamour on a grand scale to appalling Soviet-era cafeteria murals.

The 38 black-and-white photographs survey monumental art from the second half of the 20th century. The photographs accentuate not only the artworks themselves but also their spatial context, tracing their epochal, political and aesthetic frameworks. Today these works, which shaped public attitudes toward life and art, are fading from memory. This exhibition presents a narrative of the glory days and decline of one of the most high-profile and representative genres of commissioned artworks.

In 2012, Kuimet travelled around Estonia, taking pictures of more than 100 works of monumental art located in public spaces. The history of the works in this exhibition is tied to a book that accompanied the completion of the Theatre NO99 ceiling painting, documenting the making of the painting by Tõnis Saadoja, as well as providing an extensive overview of the genre as a whole in Estonia. The Kumu exhibition displays a selection of the photographs taken for the book. The hand-printed photos fall into four typological groups: works dictated by the logic of the space in which they are located, paintings on exteriors, supergraphics, and stained glass works which have lost the sacred dimension they conveyed earlier. Themes of destruction and loss are common to all four groups.

Paul Kuimet (1984) is one of the most important art photographers of the younger generation. His photographic series deal with yearnings projected onto the living environment, urbanist/pastoral dreams in new residential communities, fetishizing the concept of home, and a relentless sense of emptiness. In Estonian milieu photography, Kuimet’s compositions stand out with their fusion of a detached, cool touch, Jüri Okas-like arithmetical purity and conceptual romanticism. This exhibition of Kuimet’s works is part of a wider trend of returning the legacy of the socialist era to a salience that is free of the nostalgic elements which have thus far been prevalent. Through critical inquiry, the exhibition studies the possible effects of the multiple layers of historical traumatic experience today and the prospects for overcoming the socio-political feeling of discomfort. The exhibition also addresses the complicated issue of the relationship between publicly commissioned artworks, as reflected above all in the legislative requirement, and the implementation, of an earmark of a certain percentage for commissioned artworks.

The exhibition is accompanied by an essay by the English photographic theorist Daniel C. Blight. The publication is free of charge and is published by Lugemik.

Exhibition sponsors: Cultural Endowment of Estonia and Artproof
Exhibition designer: Tõnis Saadoja
Graphic design: Indrek Sirkel

We would like to thank: Reimo Võsa-Tangsoo, Photography Department of Estonian Academy of Arts and Taavi Rekkaro

More information:
Eha Komissarov
exhibition coordinator
Tel. +372 5562 6363

Kumu Art Museum
Weizenbergi 34 / Valge 1, Tallinn