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Illustration: Anastasija Keiša

The Top Cultural and Artistic Events of 2014 0

The Year 2014 in Review

Throughout the year, the team at has been keeping its finger on the pulse of contemporary art and culture in the Baltics, Scandinavia and Russia. In 2014 our writers were present at many important exhibition openings and festivals; they brought us reports from behind the stands at art fairs, as well as from the hottest spots at the biggest festivals. Our successful channels of communication with exhibition curators, museum directors and festival organizers have allowed us to keep our readers up to date and informed on the programs and concepts behind the most interesting events in the worlds of art and culture.

Understandably, we haven't been able to cover absolutely everything, which is why we asked people-in-the-know from throughout the Baltics, Scandinavia, Russia and other European countries to share with us their top picks – in terms of art and cultural events that took place in their part of the world this past year.

Art collector Alain Servais (Belgium)

“Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010” at MOMA, New York. And the “Inside” exhibition at Palais de Tokyo, Paris - one of the best museum shows I have ever seen (still running till January 11, 2015).

Mia Sundberg, curator at Spritmuseum in Stockholm

I would not say that 2014 stood out as a year of great and exciting events in art, at least not in Sweden. Moderna Museet presented some very good shows such as “Dance Machines: from Leger to Kraftwerk”, and some beautiful, smaller solo presentations, like George Adeagbo, Lena Svedberg, and Nina Canell, and a show of Swedish photography called “A Way of Life”.

Bonnier Konsthall is also incredibly important for the city as it brings young international artists to Stockholm, the latest example being the great show by the Brazilian artist Laura Lima.

Another highlight was Dit-Cilinn’s “Carrier Waves”, a sculpture that was shown at the Cecilia Hillström Gallery.

Dmitry Ozerkov, Head of Contemporary Art of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg

I don’t think that this year our region experienced anything extraordinarily important, although I am unabashedly excluding Manifesta 10, organized by us. Manifesta fared brilliantly in discussions about politics, laws and wars. Since by definition it wasn’t solely an artistic, but also a social project, Manifesta had a chance to pose and answer serious questions. It was constructed in place of the destroyed Berlin wall, and conceived as a place for acute discussions about separation and unification, and about the differences in people’s mentalities. In St Petersburg it became first and foremost an art exhibition, and only partly a discussion of political problems of the country in which the exhibition was organized. However, Manifesta became infinitely important for the Hermitage, which was the best present for the anniversary. As Kasper König said, the Hermitage has everything, so it is hard to find any sort of present for it, that is why the gift of “live” art was truly the best in the circumstances. Seemingly unable to cope with its internal task to become the one and only political statement, Manifesta turned out to be an excellent experiment of organizing a contemporary art fair in an ancient museum, since nobody has ever experienced this before.

I don’t think it gave birth to a new trend, as I haven’t seen it repeated yet, however, it gave the feeling that contemporary art is only the last page in the history of art that belongs to the universal museum. The second event in the Hermitage, which followed Manifesta, was the opening of the General Staff building (Glavny Shtab), which is now the biggest museum of the 19th, 20th and 21st century in the region.

Olga Temnikova, Temnikova & Kasela Gallery (Estonia)

Because of the way I have been moving around recently, the Baltics and Scandinavia have really shrunken in size for me; nevertheless, I'd like to mention the following: the Olafur Eliasson site-specific installation in Louisiana, Copenhagen; Alfredo Jaar in Kiasma and his amazing architecture; the wonderful work of the curators Maija Rudovska and Andreas Nilesson at the Moderna Exhibition in Malmö; the fabulous show dedicated to painting in the 21st century at KUMU, Tallinn, by Merike Estna and Kati Ilves; and maybe also the art festival Meeting Points 7, titled “Ten thousand wiles and a hundred thousand tricks”, as it was shown at the Institute for African Studies in Moscow – the usage of space and the context was beyond what I thought possible.

Read in Archives: The Most Important Cultural Events in the Baltics and Scandinavia in 2013

Lithuanian artist Deimantas Narkevicius

There is no doubt that The European Biennial of Contemporary Art Manifesta 10, in St. Petersburg, as well as some of the Riga European Capital of Culture events, were the most noticeable happenings in the region. The solo exhibitions of Gustavs Klucis (“The Anatomy of an Experiment”) and Vija Celmins (“Double Reality”) were just outstanding.

Estonian artist Jaanika Peerna

The Nargen Festival in Estonia, art-directed by Tõnu Kaljuste, is a very cool festival. The unexpected ways in which classical music, choreographed pieces, and choice locations meet at one point is refreshing and defies any clear definition. 2015 will be its 10th season, and I truly recommend it!

Gard Andreas Frantzsen, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (Norway)

In my opinion, of great importance was the selection of Jonas Dahlberg to design the official memorials at the sites of the 2011 Norwegian massacres carried out by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

The discussions that followed, regarding the relationship between memorial sites and their audiences, were of even more importance.

For Scandinavia as a whole, this year’s Moderna exhibition – “Society Acts”, in Malmö – was very interesting. I am all for strengthening the relationships between the artistic scenes in these relatively small countries. As such, the exhibition is an important contribution.

Milena Orlova, editor-in-chief of The Art Newspaper Russia

If we are talking about Russia, then the key event in my opinion was the Manifesta biennale in St Petersburg in the Hermitage. Several important events came together in this exhibition. Firstly, the accompanied discussions about the decision to host an international exhibition in St Petersburg. Should the art world join the political sanctions against Russia, or should artists show solidarity instead? I was glad that it was the latter, and most of the invited didn’t refuse to participate. Secondly, this theme of introducing contemporary art into a classical museum is especially significant for the Hermitage. It is worth mentioning that this year it was actually the Pushkin museum in Moscow that first organized an intervention in its halls of classical art by exhibiting the works of Wim Delvoye. And finally, it was important that Manifesta’s parallel program showed that regardless of everything, many interesting and active artists are working in both of Russia’s main cities. Speaking of Moscow, in my opinion, the reform of the exhibition halls that the Moscow department of culture is organizing is vital. For a metropolis as big as Moscow it is very important not to just have the monumental exhibition halls, but also a network of local spots, where one can view the most interesting contemporary artists.

Mindaugas Kavaliauskas, director of the KAUNAS PHOTO festival (Lithuania)

The re-opening of the renovated Museum of Photography, in Šiauliai, Lithuania. A new world-class photo art destination!

Of course, I visited the first Riga Photo Month, with its shows at the library (which I only almost visited – it was still a little bit under construction, but you could see it through the windows), at the Latvian Museum of Photography, and at Riga Art Space. I'd also like to mention the following: the “Sense of Place” exhibition tour to Minsk; the Reinis Hofmanis (Latvia) show at Les Boreales (France); Birgit Puve's (Estonia) triumph in a serious competition at the National Portrait Gallery in London; Dénes Farkas' post-Venice exhibition at Kumu (Tallinn); and, of course, our own Kaunas Photo festival, which had not only three large shows at the National M.K.Ciurlionis Museum, but also the Kaunas Photography Gallery organizing the exhibition "Celebrating Europe" across two galleries in Kaunas – at which the installation art left the audience with dropped jaws. 

I could go on about great events and shows, such as Esko Männikkö's remarkable show about time, “Time Flies – Retrospective”, at Kunsthalle, in Helsinki. This one would have been my No. 2; it was wonderful, but a little less of a surprise since I've known the artist for over ten years.

Lithuanian artist Robertas Narkus

The landing of Rosetta.

Stefan Andersson, Galleri Andersson/Sandström (Sweden)

That fact that Umeå was the Cultural Capital of Europe; our exhibition with Antony Gormley – his first in Scandinavia in 23 years; and the inauguration of Väven, the new cultural house in Umeå that was awarded the Kasper Salin Prize for Best Building in Sweden in 2014.

Tuula Alajoki, project manager and curator of the Backlight Photo Festival (Finland)

The Baltic Circle international contemporary theater festival, and the IHME Contemporary Art Festival in Finland.

In December 31, we will be publishing the thoughts of our survey participants on the tendencies, or trends, that were to be found in the art and culture scenes of 2014.