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Electromagnetic. Modern Art in Northern Europe 1918–1931

Time: 24.01.14–18.05.14  11:00–18:00
Venue: Kumu exhibition spaces

On Friday, 24 January, the exhibition Electromagnetic: Modern Art in Northern Europe 1918–1931 will open at the Kumu Art Museum. This exhibition is the first to bring together noteworthy 1920s artists from Scandinavia and the Baltics, and to place Estonia's early avant-garde art in an international context. Le Corbusier, Amédée Ozenfant, Juan Gris, André Lhote and Fernand Léger are the core names that represented the Parisian art scene, and their work had a decisive impact on the development of artists from the Nordic countries.

The exhibition's curator, Gladys C. Fabre, focuses on the identity searches of the artists in the art world of the 1920s, which was charged with various ideas and, in the selection of exhibition works, stresses the need to shed more light on the work of the Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian artists of the period.

Fabre has pointed out that the artists at this time were united by a belief in the existential nature of universal values. For many artists, it was the modern metropolises – like stations on the map of Europe – that provided them the opportunity to examine and define the spirit of the era. Franciska Clausen, Ragnhild Keyser, Thorvald Hellesen, Otto Gustaf Carlsund, Gösta Adrian-Nilsson, Romans Suta, Aleksandra Beļcova, Niklāvs Strunke, Vytautas Kairiūkštis, Märt Laarman, Eduard Ole and others expressed an original modernity in their paintings, which was motivated by communications between various artists, as well as experience gathered at exhibitions in Russia, Poland, Paris and Berlin. The Estonian artists including in the exhibition are Arnold Akberg, Edmond Arnold Blumenfeldt, Aleksander Krims, Henrik Olvi, Felix Randel and Jaan Siirak.

The title of the exhibition – Electromagnetic – originates from a poem by Blaise Cendrars called "Le Panama ou les Aventures de me Sept Oncles" (1918), the symphonic dynamics of which provide a panoramic view of the period. The artists included in the exhibition played an important role both at home and on the international art scene and, in various ways, they affected political, social and economic developments in the inter-war period. The works of Gustavs Klucis, which manipulate politically propagandistic photographic material, represent a radical extreme. The countless art magazines and experimental films from the era illustrate the broadening of the media used by the artists. The treasury of 1920s avant-garde art includes Viking Eggeling's Symphonie Diagonale (1924): a musical and abstract visual idiom, which conveys in film the constant movement and continuity of time and form, as well as the synthesis of the past and present into a "current flow".

The works exhibited come from renowned private collection and museums: the Louisana Museum of Modern Art (Copenhagen), Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou (Paris), Moderna Museet (Sweden), Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design (Oslo), Dansmuseet – Musée Rolf de Maré (Stockholm), Canica Kunstsamling (Oslo), Eskilstuna Konstmuseum, Hollands Konstmuseum och Svea Larsons donationsfond (Halmstad), Kulturen (Lund), Latvijas Nacionālais mākslas muzejs (Riga), Lietuvos dailės muziejaus (Vilnius), Malmö Konstmuseum, Mjellby Konstmuseum, Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Skissernas Museum (Lund), Tartu Kunstimuuseum, Eesti Kunstimuuseum, Hallands Konstmuseum och Svea Larsons donationsfond (Halmstad) and the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter.

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated book in English edited by Gladys C. Fabre, Gerd Elise Mørland and Tone Hansen, which includes texts by Gladys C. Fabre, Ingvild Krogvik, Jan Torsten Ahlstrand, Dace Lamberga, Viktoras Liutkus and Liis Pählapuu.

On Wednesday, 29 January at 6 pm, a tour will take place as part of the Late Wednesdays in Kadrorg series.
On Thursday, 30 January at 6 pm, the first screening of the supplementary programme accompanying the exhibition will take place in the Kumu Auditorium. More information is available here.

The exhibition will be open at the Kumu Art Museum until 18 May 2014.