Major Konrad Mägi exhibition in Rome
9 October is the opening day of a major Konrad Mägi exhibition at the prestigious Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia and the Estonian presidency of the European Union. This will be the largest ever exhibition of Konrad Mägi’s oeuvre outside of Estonia; the display will include nearly 50 of his finest landscape paintings.
The paintings will give foreign visitors an overview of all of Mägi’s significant creative periods, from 1908 to 1925, primarily showing Mägi as an artist who sensed nature as a metaphysical and sacred space. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue in Italian and English, Konrad Mägi’s biography in Estonian, Italian and English, and a colouring book for children. The works on display come from the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia, the Tartu Art Museum and private collections.
Konrad Mägi (1878–1925) is a well-known artist in his homeland, but in European art history he has been largely ignored. For various reasons, it used to be impossible to show Mägi’s oeuvre to the wider European audience, and thus this exhibition serves as the first opportunity to fill this gap. The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea is one of the most noteworthy museums in Rome, focussing on modernism in the 20th century. Besides the permanent display, the museum houses temporary exhibitions. The exposition of Konrad Mägi’s works is the first time Estonian art has been on display there. The Mägi exhibition covers two floors and several halls, showing visitors all of his important creative periods in Norway (1908–1910), the Estonian island of Saaremaa (1913–1914), the environs of Lake Pühajärv (1918–1920), Italy (1921–1922) and elsewhere. Some of Mägi’s sketches and the artist Eduard Wiiralt’s portrait sculpture of the author are also on display.
Konrad Mägi’s uniqueness in European art history has been treated at the Rome exhibition via his interpretations of nature. Although the play and force of colour are essential in the paintings, nature was not presented as a decorative object, but rather as a mysterious place where one could experience the existence of a parallel reality. Mägi, who was interested in a number of religious and esoteric teachings, saw nature as the highest temple, a place to sense something that could not be recorded in words, but only in images. The positive attitude of his earliest creative periods, with the focus on the mysteries of nature, was later, as his illness progressed, replaced by apocalyptic and dramatic moods. A trip to Italy offered him short-term relief, resulting in a romantic series of paintings. The early-20th century European art scene had few artists with a similar sense of nature who used such an extraordinary choice of colours to reflect their experiences. Even though Mägi was familiar with all modern art trends, he never became a follower of any of them, but preferred to synthesise various experiences gathered throughout his life and childhood in Estonia. This was what made Konrad Mägi a European in Estonian art and an Estonian in European art.
The exhibition is part of the Estonian presidency of the European Union and the international celebration programme dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, which sees more than 150 different events taking place all over the world.
Exhibition organised by: Art Museum of Estonia Foundation
Curator: Eero Epner
Designer: Tõnis Saadoja
Graphic design: Kätlin Tischler
With the support of:
EV 100, the Government Office of Estonia, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Estonia, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia – Estonian Embassy in Rome
We thank: Enn Kunila, Madis Üürike, the Estonian Students’ Society, and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Italy