5th Estonian Photographic Art Fair 0

Agnese Čivle,

5th Estonian Photographic Art Fair
Telliskivi Loomelinnak, Tallinn
October 3 - 5, 2014

The Estonian Photographic Art Fair 2014 takes place from 3 to 5 October 2014 at Telliskivi Loomelinnak, Tallinn. Visitors can see and buy new works from 26 leading artists; the display is contextualised by a varied programme of public events.

The purpose of the fair is to introduce recent trends in contemporary photography to the local public and international art professionals, to offer advice on the strategies of collecting contemporary art, and to initiate discussions on the role of photography in art and visual culture. 

“The Estonian fair is unique in its approach – we work directly with artists,” said Helen Melesk, Project Manager of the fair. “This is partly due to the lack of an established gallery representation system in Estonia. Each year, we collaborate more closely with professional galleries – however, as an artist-led organisation we appreciate the flexibility and curatorial opportunities our current model offers.”

The following questions were answered by Kristel Raesaar, Artistic Leader of Tallinn Photomonth.

DÉNES FARKAS. Ars Poetica, 2014

This is the 5th edition of The Photographic Art Fair. Could you shortly sketch out the history of this event, and how the fair’s character and overall mood have changed over the years?

The Photographic Art Fair is an initiative of the Union of Photography Artists of Estonia (Foku). The first fair took place in 2010, and the leading organisers were artists and founding members of the union, Marge Monko and Vahur Puik. It grew out of the desire to show the members’ work together, and to have a yearly event that would somehow showcase the developments of photographic art in Estonia. However, a loosely curated annual exhibition didn’t seem like a very interesting format. At the same time, whilst in the global art world the market is inevitably one of the main driving forces of art production, and fairs are arguably becoming as important and popular as biennials and museum exhibitions, the art market in Estonia was (and largely still is) practically non-existent. This means that, in a way, artists are protected from the daily pressures of a profit-driven gallery system and the crude logic of an accelerated art market; but on the other hand, it is very difficult to make a living. So Foku decided to establish our own fair that would respond to this situation by initiating a discussion about these issues – whilst also offering opportunities for the public to start an art collection and support the scene by investing in unique artworks by Estonian artists. 

MARGE MONKO. Untitled photograms #2, 2014

Every year we try to revise our aims and simultaneously widen the scope of the fair. In 2013, over 1000 people came over one weekend – that’s more visitors than most art venues in Tallinn get over an exhibition period of several weeks. This year more than ever the fair mirrors the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary art – several participating artists are well known, but wouldn’t normally be associated with the photographic medium – for example, Mall Nukke, Jaanus Samma and Andres Lõo. 

ALAN PROOSA. Estonian Girl, 2014

In 2014, the represented artists were for the first time chosen through an open call – up until now, participation was only through invitation by members of Foku. Even though, in a way, this is just a quite small artist-led event, we feel the responsibility to be as open as possible – as it is, so far, the only contemporary art fair in Tallinn. Of course, the space and our resources are very limited, and it is important to ensure a level of artistic quality. Therefore, the selection is made by a jury of experts – this year they were: Indrek Grigor (Tartu Kunstimaja), Liina Siib (Union of Photographic Artists), Jaana Jüris and Neeme Külm (Valge Kuup), and Rowan Geddis (Gasworks, London).

ANU VAHTRA & NA KIM. 120409–120511, 2012

Could you shortly introduce us with fair’s programme of public events? Are there any highlights in this programme that you would particularly like to recommend?

We put a lot of emphasis on the public events, making sure that there is something of interest for different groups of people. This year, highlights include artist talks, a pin-hole photography workshop, a practical workshop for artists on composing and editing a photographic series, a public lecture on the links between art and architecture, and more. English-speaking visitors are welcome to participate in the public lectures that will be given by visiting-speakers Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, Chief Curator of The Finnish Museum of Photography, and Ida Pimenoff, Chair of the Board of the Finnish Union of Artist Photographers; these will take place on Saturday afternoon.

KRISTIINA HANSEN. Changing, it rests, 2013

Could you tell us more about the spatial layout of this fair, as well as describe its ambiance?

The design of the fair has been developed by Valge Kuup, one of the best art installation teams in Estonia. Our fair is unique in that it highlights artists, not galleries – largely due to the lack of a developed gallery representation system in Estonia. Therefore, there are no booths – instead, the fair is laid out as an exhibition or a series of mini-exhibitions of each artist, with a price list available on request. 

Every year we also have a display of artist books. This year it is being curated by Annika Toots, and it will focus on contemporary Finnish photography.

It is very important that the visitors feel welcome and comfortable in the space – it shouldn’t be an intimidating experience. We have a pop-up café at the exhibition space, and the daily guided tours are a good starting point for engaging with the works and so on. 

EILVE MANGLUS. There Were Lots of Flowers. Necklace, 2014

How do you attract an international audience to the fair?

The contemporary art world is, by nature, international, and we do make an effort to increase the international visibility of the fair. At the moment, this doesn’t yet translate into many foreign visitors. However, invited art professionals do visit the fair and meet the artists every year. We also send out electronic newsletters to international contacts, and this year, for the first time, detailed information on the represented artists, as well as on the works and prices, is available both in Estonian and English, at There are also plans to collaborate with similar events in neighbouring countries in the near future.  

Participating artists: Alan Proosa, Anu Vahtra, Andres Lõo, Arne Maasik, Dénes Farkas, Diana Tamane, Eilve Manglus, Herkki Erich Merila, Jaanus Samma, Johannes Säre, Kalev Vapper, Karel Koplimets, Katrin Sarapuu, Katrina Tang, Kristiina Hansen, Maido Juss, Mall Nukke, Marge Monko, Maria Kapajeva, Na Kim, Ott Kadarik, Paco Ulman, Sigrid Viir, Triin Rebane, Tõnu Tunnel, Vahur Puik. The selection was made by a jury of experts: Indrek Grigor (Tartu Kunstimaja), Liina Siib (Union of Photographic Artists), Jaana Jüris and Neeme Külm (Valge Kuup), and Rowan Geddis (Gasworks, London).