Cold Look. Variations of Hyperrealism in Estonian Art

The exhibition “Cold Look” brings Estonian hyperrealism from the last half of the century to the public eye. The exhibition, which is mostly based on the collection from the Estonian Art Museum, features 44 artworks from 25 authors, amongst others Jaan Elken, Ando Keskküla, Tõnis Saadoja and Ludmilla Siim.

The term hyperrealism denotes, first of all, an art trend that evolved at the end of the 1960s, spread to various parts of the world, and focused mainly on the contemporary Western lifestyle, its visual dominants and the perceptions shaped by those dominants. Secondly, hyperrealism is a technique used in different types of art since the 1960s; it is based on photographic images, which are imitated and intensified, creating the effect of being “more real than real” (hyperreal or over-real).

In the 1970s, there were lively responses to hyperrealism in the art of socialist Eastern European countries, as well as in the Soviet Union. In an environment where the official doctrine favoured realism in art, the new trend caused something close to a conceptual short circuit. After years of fighting against the Western trends in art that avoided depicting reality, the Soviet art world now had to face paintings that were more realistic than ever before. Although the ideological purpose of this exceedingly realistic manner of depiction was not straightforwardly definable, hyperrealism was well-suited to socialist countries, where it was used in a multitude of ways.

The aim of this exhibition is to show the hybridity and versatility of the Estonian hyperrealism of the 1970s and 1980s. On the one hand, the photographic manner of depiction was a stylistic technique that enabled artists to overplay the demand to create realist art; on the other hand, photography became a partner in dialogue and a mediator of contemporary sensibility, intertwined with the conceptual, metaphysical, critical, symbolist and postmodernist trends that existed in art at the time.

The exhibition will be open until the 2nd of December 2018.


Curator in the Estonian Art Museum: Anu Allas

Adaptors for Tartu Art Museum: Merli-Triin Eiskop ja Hanna-Liis Kont

Designer: Anna Škodenko

Graphic Designer: Külli Kaats

Coordinator: Kristlyn Liier


Artists: Jaan Elken, Ülo Emmus, Ando Keskküla, Miljard Kilk, Ilmar Kruusamäe, Holger Loodus, Lemming Nagel, Jüri Palm, Illimar Paul, Urmas Ploomipuu, Heitti Polli, Kaisa Puustak, Enn Põldroos, Tiit Pääsuke, Tõnis Saadoja, Ludmilla Siim, Vladimir Taiger, Rein Tammik, Enn Tegova, Andres Tolts, Silver Vahtre and Ignar Fjuk, Alo Valge, Irene Virve, Marje Üksine.


Our thanks to: Estonian Art Museum, Tallinn Art Hall, University of Tartu Art Museum, Tartu Artists Union, private collections.

The exhibition is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

Virtual tour