Tallinn Photomonth '17 01.09–29.10.2017

Chronicles of Art Life


Kumu Art Museum

“Artists Evald Okas and Elmar Kits with the painting Estonian Red Guards Meeting Lenin and Stalin (1952)”. Early 1950s, Photographic collection of the Art Museum of Estonia


Chronicles of Art Life presents a selection of photographs of the art and cultural scene in Estonia from the 1940s to the 1980s. Instead of trying to illustrate particular narratives in the history of art, the aim of the exhibition is to direct attention to the role of photographers in the creation of those narratives. In the selection of the photographs, the primary concern was not the significance of the people and events depicted, but rather the evocativeness of the images themselves: the way the photographs represent and shape their times and our understanding of them.


The ways that artists and the art scene have been recorded have changed in response to changes in art and society and in connection with how artists sense and present themselves, or how photographers acknowledge their roles and objectives. Naturally, the spread of new technologies and skills has also played a part. Throughout the post-war decades, the number of photographs documenting art and culture grew exponentially.


Chronicles of Art Life shows only a tiny part of what was going on in the Estonian art and cultural life in the second half of the 20th century. The display could be supplemented by hundreds, even thousands of photographs that are just as characteristic and evocative of their era. On the other hand, there were numerous events that were never recorded; these could be partly reconstructed via other means, or they will eventually be almost or completely forgotten. This illustrates eloquently how much our understanding of art history – its key moments and main characters – has been shaped by those who were, or were not, present with their cameras in hand.