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16. Mar - 21. Jul

Initiative from Below. Estonian Caricatures in the 1980s

11:00 - 18:00

Tartu city | Tartu Kunstimuuseum

  • Exhibition/museum
  • Main programme


The seventh exhibition of the Tartu 88 series Initiative from Below. Estonian Caricatures in the 1980s offers a cultural-historical perspective on one of the most controversial aspects of life during the Soviet era: humour.

In 1986, the Tartu Art Museum hosted an exhibition in its premises on Vallikraavi Street, featuring cartoonists who had come together under the name Tallinnfilm Surrealists. This exhibition, which garnered 15,312 visitors, is likely the most popular project in the history of the Tartu Art Museum. During the same period, the circulation of the humour magazine Pikker reached 70,000 copies. Herilane / The Wasp, the satire section of the newspaper Edasi, was read by 80% of the paper’s readers. There was an insatiable hunger for humour.

The exhibition Initiative from Below opens with the collective NAKS, a group of young caricaturists who gathered at the University of Tartu in the early 1970s. Such classics as The Ulyanov Family by Heiki Ernits, the book Tagurpidi / Inside-Out by Priit Pärn, and Estonia’s most famous caricature Sitta kah / Just Shit are also part of the display.

With the end of the Soviet regime came the demise of the distinctive humour culture, but to show that the artistic processes of that time should not be underestimated, the exhibition includes the works of two artists born in the 1980s: Flo Kasearu and Jass Kaselaan, in whose works Estonian surrealism continues to thrive within today’s contemporary art.

Curator: Indrek Grigor
Graphic design: Laura Merendi
Coordinator: Kristlyn Liier
Translation: Peeter Talvistu
Language editing: Eva Lepik & Richard Adang

Participating authors:
Tallinnfilm Surrealists: Heiki Ernits, Rao Heidmets, Vahur Kersna, Miljard Kilk, Kalju Kivi, Mati Kütt, Hillar Mets, Priit Pärn, Tõnu Talivee, Riho Unt and Hardi Volmer

Caricature collective NAKS: Andres Ader, Viljar Ansko, Hiie Ivanova, Raul Kilgas, Silja Kudisiim, Tõnu Lepp, Peeter Paris and Heiki Raudla

And: Harry Egipt, Rein Lauks, Jaak Lõhmus, Flo Kasearu, Jass Kaselaan, Andrus Peegel, Ilja Popovits, Elle Tikerpäe, Aarne Vasar and Kurti Vool

“Initiative from Below. Estonian Caricatures is the 1980s” takes place within the framework of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 main programme. It is part of a larger series of exhibitions dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the surrealist manifesto, which also includes “Ilmar Malin. The Glow of Eternity” and Kris Lemsalu’s solo exhibition “DONATELLA. Spiral of Life”. Along with the exhibitions at the Tartu Art Museum, the exhibition “Surrealism 100. Prague, Tartu and other stories …” is on display at the Estonian National Museum from 4 April.

If you want to grab a bite or need a place to stay, see what the Tartu 2024 hospitality network offers in the area:


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  • Partially accessible for people with reduced mobility
  • Partially accessible for the hearing impaired
  • Partially accessible for people with intellectual disabilities


Tartu Kunstimuuseum


Raekoja plats 18, Tartu, Tartu maakond, Eesti

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