Kai Art Center, a new cultural hub for local and international art, opens September 2019 in the historic and culturally-vibrant Noblessner area on Tallinn’s waterfront. Spearheaded by the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center, the more than 100-year-old heritage-protected building—a former submarine plant—will provide 450 m2 of top-floor exhibition space, presenting four main exhibitions each year.
The inaugural exhibition
Let the field of your attention…. soften and spread out, an international group show curated by Hanna Laura Kaljo, will be open from September, 21 until December 1, 2019, and is part of the main program of the city’s contemporary art biennial, Tallinn Photomonth.
Artists: Marie Kølbæk Iversen, Sandra Kosorotova, Pia Lindman, Andrea Magnani, Elin Már Øyen Vister, Carlos Monleon Gendall, Sam Smith, Nele Suisalu
Arriving into the body, do I feel restless or tired? What holds tension, pain? Then, noticing the quality of the bay, of tidal movement, of weather, as the sun sets into the Baltic Sea. Noticing my body’s native capacity to resonate with other bodies and with the living land. We gather intimately to be with what is difficult, to witness movement and be moved. Listen, what emerges from the yet unseen and unsaid? What are we recovering from and what are we called to recover?
Situated at the intersection of creativity and healing, the exhibition features artists whose practices span visual art, moving meditation, deep listening, contemporary dance, writing, textile, and traditional medicinal knowledge. The title references an exercise in the book A Widening Field: Journeys in Body and Imagination (2004), composed by dancer, Alexander teacher, and craniosacral therapist Miranda Tufnell and installation artist Chris Crickmay. Similar to the book, the exhibition considers the creative arts through an emphasis on receptivity to our bodies and our surroundings. An invitation to gather through different registers of visibility, from small-scale private moments to those more public. The undercurrent of its curatorial choreography is one of attentiveness to the ways in which the seasonal transition towards darkness and dormancy inherent to late autumn and early winter in Estonia may affect our bodies, inner lives, and how we come together.
Hanna Laura Kaljo says, “the curatorial process of imagining the first exhibition at Kai and this historically layered, formerly closed-off coastal part of Tallinn has been guided by methods of listening and intuitive perceiving. I have remained vulnerable towards a story that cannot be accessed directly. It has been challenging and rewarding to see how we might evoke an atmosphere of openness to depth and dormancy, suggested by the metaphor of the submarine and the season, in which the show and the Photomonth biennial is taking place. I’ve been met with immense support from both Kai and the biennial team, and feel grateful for the opportunity to curate an exhibition for my birth town, bridging, perhaps, an innate Estonian sensibility with an international perspective. I feel excited to share the practices of artists who have not been shown in Estonia before, whilst also collaborating with young, local practitioners. I see Kai and its co-working ethos as an invaluable addition to the local creative ecology, creating the conditions for international exchange and hopefully also fostering a vision of the role of contemporary art from this particular locality.”
At the core of the center’s programming is the Kai Residency. Launching in October 2019, it aims to support innovative practices, develop global networks, and engage the local art community in Tallinn. Inviting international visual artists, curators, writers, and other contemporary art professionals, it provides the opportunity for selected participants to live and work in Tallinn while being immersed in the city’s dynamic art scene. It will host up to 14 participants in its first year, with five places for residents from Nordic and Baltic countries.
Kari Conte has been appointed Kai Residency Curator for 2019-2020 and she will serve as a jury member for the residency along with Karin Lansoo (Kai Art Center), Ann Mirjam Vaikla (Narva Art Residency, Estonia) and Jenni Nurmenniemi (Fiskars Village Biennale, Finland).
Notes to editors
In addition to its extensive exhibition and residency programs, auditorium, and education center, Kai will host and produce a comprehensive film and event program curated together with Estonian and international cultural organizations. Foto Tallinn, an art fair dedicated to promoting and introducing contemporary photographic art, will take place at Kai Art Center, September 27-29, 2019.
The building and history
Located at Port Noblessner, Kai has both the Seaplane Harbour and the historic Kalamaja district as its neighbors. The history of the port dates back to 1912, when two businessmen from St. Petersburg—Europe’s biggest oil industrialist Emanuel Nobel (Alfred Nobel’s nephew), and Arthur Lessner, the owner of G. A. Lessner machinery plant—built a submarine production plant on the site to serve the navy of the Russian Tsar. The area was closed to the public for nearly a century due to its military functions. The two-story, reinforced concrete building being renovated was originally constructed in 1916, and its most unique element is the curved concrete roof which gives the center’s exhibition space its 6-meter high ceiling.
The architects and designers
Kai Art Center was designed by KAOS Architects. Founded by two women, Margit Argus and Margit Aule, the firm is best-known for its innovative work with historic buildings for contemporary use. The center is being built by 1Partner, and its brand identity is by Stuudio Stuudio.
The Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center is a non-profit foundation focused both on fostering international exposure for artists from Estonia and on developing the contemporary art scene in Estonia. Functioning as an umbrella organization for Estonian partner institutions, the center is creating strategic international partnerships in the field of contemporary art. Founded in 2012, ECADC receives ongoing financial support through Enterprise Estonia (EAS) from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Estonian Ministry of Culture. ECADC is the founding member of philanthropic organization Outset Estonia.
Kai Art Center is funded by Enterprise Estonia (European Regional Development Fund), BLRT Group, and Lindermann, Birnbaum & Kasela