est eng 2024/1 international special pages! See: Nils Ohlsen "Konrad Mägi and Die Brücke at the Baltic Sea – just a coincidence or a phenomenon?"


New Generation?

Andreas Trossek (1/2014)

Andreas Trossek provides an introduction to the current issue of KUNST.EE, which focuses on institutions.


"The fact that there is a generational gulf in our association was obvious at the New Years' Ball – held for the first time in many years – where the different generations no longer managed to make contact with each other."
Ando Keskküla, president of the Estonian Artists' Association 1989–1992


"The year 2013 will go down in history because a change of generation has taken place in many Estonian art institutions." These are the words of the Art Ministry's… sorry, the Ministry of Culture's art advisor, Maria-Kristiina Soomre on the radio in January 2014. She lists: the Estonian Artists Association, Tartu Art Museum, the Center for Contemporary Arts, Estonia, and the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design. The directors in all these institutions are new, and all of them are much younger than their predecessors. Those listening to the programme "Art Ministry" cannot see, but Soomre's facial expression conveys satisfaction – things are moving.

The faces of the other people in the studio, who like Soomre are thirty-something arts professionals, also express satisfaction. Youth rules! The last "migration" on a similar scale, took place in the mid-noughties after the completion of Kumu Art Museum, didn't it? And the only question is whether to focus attention on 2013 or to look at the bigger picture and talk about yet another change of generations.

One of the hosts of the programme, Maarin Mürk (real name Maarin Ektermann), an art historian, who for many years has tasted the bitter pill of working as a freelance arts professional, has recently gone to head the education centre at Kumu Art Museum. The other host, Indrek Grigor, has been gallerist at the Tartu Art House since 2010, having taken over the baton from his seniors. Andreas Trossek, another guest on the program, chuckles along in solidarity with his contemporaries, although he does not have any real cause to rejoice. Despite having been reselected in 2012, and without much fuss, to assume the position of editor in chief of the quarterly KUNST.EE, the budget at his disposal has not increased since before the euro, when the kroon was the national currency, and when the country was entangled in the winds of the global financial crisis. "Whether there has been a change of generation or not, the state provides increasingly less and less funds", he mutters to himself. "And also the institutional changes in 2013 are characterised by a certain compensatory logic."


In truth, maybe the wheels of "generational change" in 2013 already began to roll in 2011?

It was then that Karin-Hallas Murula, an architecture historian, was appointed to the position of director of the Tallinn Art Hall. Her first step was to get rid of the positions of in-house curators, for the reason that they it did not really pay off. However, in this small and limited art world the magic word "curator" mostly resonates with artists who have risen to the fore since re-independence. Subsequently, the story of the newly redundant Art Hall curators spun into a generational conflict in the mainstream media, a classic confrontation between the young and the old, and this was not far from the truth. After all, the board of the Art Hall, in selecting a new director, were basically faced with a choice between visions that either looked to the past or the future. Around the same time it also became public knowledge that the Estonian Academy of Arts was not going to get their new building. Hey, kids! No Future!

Be as it may, but it seems that a certain compensatory logic started to dictate the personnel policies in other local art institutions; and the logic went something like this, "Okay, we didn't give the Art Hall to the young, after all it is the oldest and most dignified exhibition space, but let's allow Anders Härm to continue squatting his Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia in that grubby old industrial building, because the annual Köler Prize is a very nice event. And let's give that smaller and hapless Tartu Art Museum to Rael Artel, a radical young curator. And we'll give the management of the Estonian pavilion at the Venice Biennale to the young artist and curator, Maria Arusoo¬ – let her grapple with that. So it goes."

Of course no one has publicly conducted such a monologue, but it is possible to imagine that this compensatory logic has been the background for many collective decisions in recent years. Youth has been promoted cautiously and mostly in smaller organisations, while in the larger institutions the baton still continues to be held by people who have been around for a while. Because the large institutions, whose opinions regarding issues of art in the public arena are always taken seriously, are characterised at the moment by an image of standing rather than fluctuating water. To the outsider, Kumu Art Museum, which in 2008 won the European Museum of the Year Award, looks so successful, that if there have been any big problems or radical reform programmes, these have been swallowed up by the machine that is a big corporate museum. The Estonian Academy of Arts, which for many years has been spread across the city, like "organs without a body", also does not show any indications that they intend to continue in any other way. Since we are on the subject, where is the change of generation and other revolutionary notes in these institutions?

So, are we living in the midst of another institutional change of generation or not? And is there fundamental conflict between the generations and if so, how should this be worded? For example Elin Kard, elected to the position of vice president of the Estonian Artists' Association in 2013, said in her campaign speech that she sees her responsibility primarily as "state mediator" between the different generations. What we usually say in situations like this? Where there is smoke, there is fire?


Andreas Trossek works as the editor in chief of KUNST.EE.

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