The project is based on ground-breaking research on Estonian women artists, coordinated by Kumu, and the exhibitions Images of the Modern Woman and Urban Encounters, produced by the Ateneum. The curator of both exhibitions, Anu Utriainen, who is senior researcher at the Ateneum, also plays a key role in the planning team for the exhibition presented at Kumu.
The exhibition highlights women’s new identities and roles, and how these have evolved over a period of one hundred years. The work, status and interests of women artists have changed with society. It is interesting how the artists featured in the exhibition came from different backgrounds, studying in different countries and cities, and meeting different people, and how this is reflected in their art. The works exhibited were created by Baltic-German, Russian, Estonian, Finnish and Swedish women artists, whose networks are made visible by the exhibition, challenging the canon of art history dominated by male artists.
The key themes of the exhibition are self-portraits by women artists, education, new and modern womanhood, decadence and the femme fatale, changing views of gender, fashion, and the differences and similarities between being a woman in the Soviet system and in Western society. The artists in the exhibition include, among others, Maria Wiik, Helene Schjerfbeck, the sisters Lydia, Natalie and Kristine Mei, Elga Sesemann and Karin Luts.
The curators of the exhibition Creating the Self: Emancipating Women in Estonian and Finnish Art are Tiina Abel and Anu Allas (Kumu). The research and curatorial team also includes Kadi Polli and Karin Pastak (Kumu), Bart Pushaw, and Anu Utriainen, as the Ateneum representative. In connection with the exhibition, Kumu is publishing an exhibition catalogue in Estonian and English, featuring articles written by the members of the curatorial team, along with the Ateneum’s chief curator Timo Huusko and curator Anne-Maria Pennonen.