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Illustration: Rūta Briede

The Year 2013 in Review: Surprise and Disappointment of the Year? 0

The year 2014 is here and we have one other subject to uncover – which were the past year’s biggest surprises? And disappointments? Since early December the staff of has been on a mission to learn the opinions of the many creative intellectuals from the Baltic States, Scandinavia and Russia. We have already revealed, which cultural events,  exhibitions, films and books  have created the most memorable impressions of the year 2013. 

Niekolaas Johannes Lekkerkerk,  curator of Tallinn Photomonth

Disappointment: Human rights violations in Russia – and the art world's mild response (e.g., Manifesta; the “Russia Year” in The Netherlands). Surprise: That I am still working as a curator, despite all of the pessimism around funding cuts.

Milena Hoegsberg, chief curator at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter in Høvikodden 

Disappointment: The rise of unemployment and poor people in Europe, the US government shut down, the Norwegian elections, and our indifference to climate change. Surprise: That the media spend so much time on the wrong things. Case in point: the media coverage of Danish Head of State Helle Thorning Smith's “selfie” with Obama and Blair, which conveyed scrutiny of the appearance of women political figures, and which really feels displaced and sexist (I remember only all too well the relentless commentary on Hilary Clinton's haircuts, outfits, and what her facial expressions might relay as to her strength, or “feminine weakness”, over the years). It's 2013, for Pete's sake!

Pirkko Siitari,  director  of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art

Disappointment:  No comment. Surprise: There were many positive ones.

Kati Kivinen, curator at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (Finland)

Disappointment: That I missed LIAF 2013 – the Lofoten International Art Festival at Svolvær. And that the weather in Venice during the biennale's preview days was so awful! Surprise: An Immaterial Retrospective of the Venice Biennale, by Alexandra Pirici & Manuel Pelmuş, at the Romanian pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Suvi Saloniemi, curator at the Helsinki Design museum (Finland)

Disappointment: Design Week Helsinki and London Design Festival 2013 overlapped in their schedules, and I was sad that I missed LDF this year, as it is one the best sources of inspiration in my annual calendar. Surprise: The Venice Biennale's main exhibition, The Encyclopedic Palace, by Massimiliano Gioni, was unexpectedly captivating this year. A very inspiring and eclectic touch of both outsider and insider, and the old and the contemporary. Another big bang was that the Finnish design company Artek, founded by Alvar Aalto, was sold to Vitra.

Sune Nordgren, Swedish art curator

Disappointment: Jacob Fabricius left the Malmö Konsthall before his contract ran out, and the process of hiring a new director is an embarrassingly slow process. But Copenhagen is to be congratulated. Surprise: Thielska Galleriet got a new director – and it just might work.

Marge Monko, Estonian artist

Disappointment: Biennale Online. I was skeptical about the format from the beginning, but I agreed to show my work there out of respect for the curator who invited me. I haven't heard a thing about it after having uploaded my work.  Surprise: Wonderful collaborations with colleagues when preparing my exhibitions at the Tartu Art Museum and at Mumok. Being surrounded by so many great people in the studio program at HISK (Higher Institute for Fine Arts), in Ghent, Belgium.

Tanel Veenre, Estonian jewellery artist

Disappointment: I don`t disappoint, I try to understand. Surprise: Vibes of Istanbul.

Romas Zabaraukas, Lithuanian filmmaker

Disappointment: The Lithuanian Parliament pushing five new and different homophobic initiatives. Surprise: A gay strip club in Mexico.

Mark Raidpere, Estonian artist

Disappointment : The Putin regime´s brutality and its continuous winning streak in Russia, as assisted by Western naivety and passivity. Surprise: My own naivety about the aforementioned situation: that things could change for the better before it is critically too late. (An art topic alternative: Kiwa being nominated for the Köler Prize 2014 – simply because he seems to be a bit too-established for this award, which, up to now, has focused on artists with less experience and a smaller career-range.)

Ansis Egle, a communications professional from Latvia

This year's pleasant surprise is the opening of the Mark Rothko Center in Daugavpils. I'd have to say that this fact, and its quality, are closest to the way I have imagined and experienced various cultural actualities in the world at large. It is a truly qualitative leap in the development of our cultural field. I definitely think that there is room for more growth here – and the possibilities are endless.

Kristīne Kursiša, Latvian artist

I was surprised by Massimiliano Gioni's exhibition, The Encyclopedic Palace, at the Arsenal for the 55th Venice Art Biennale. As a curator, he chose not to go down the well-trodden path of showing the latest works of already-established artists. Instead, the bulk of the exhibition consists of art created by naivists, half-professionals, mentally-impaired individuals, fresh and modern mainstreamers, and other outsiders. A principally important question was posed: Who is an artist? – Those who are approved? Professionals? It was a beautiful and utopian attempt to lift art above and beyond the market.

Ieva Epnere, Latvian artist

A definite surprise was Richard Mosse's work, The Enclave, at Ireland's pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Dmitry Khenkin, co-owner of gallery Тriumph (Russia)

Disappointment – Istanbul Biennale. There were no surprises; everything went according to plan.

Sofia Trotsenko, the head and founder of the Winzavod Center for Contemporary Art (Russia)

Probably the scandal surrounding the pavilion of Louis Vuitton on the Red Square...