NOBA Nordic Baltic contemporary art platform

No one in the cultural sphere was left untouched during the first stormy months of 2020. For some, the sudden downtime opened up as an opportunity for mellow creative work; for others, institutions’ closed doors brought more insecurity and worry. Compared to spring, the autumn has been much better for Estonia’s culture sector - the museums and art halls are still open, and theatres and cinemas still welcome the guests. When the mind is (more) anxious, we all need more positivity in our lives such as enjoyable experiences, that would bring us a more bright outlook or allow us to stop thinking and worrying for a while.

NGO Nordic & Baltic Art Centre NOBA launched six years ago, is set to support the contemporary art scene in Baltic and Nordic countries by organising thrilling art events and spreading the information about the artists and other relevant info about the sphere. Despite the challenging circumstances, NOBA managed to carry out most of its grand plans for 2020. 

Remix: Vello Vinn & Kiwa at Tartu Art House “Umbluu. Time and Space”

At the beginning of the year, the team of NOBA had a unique opportunity to curate an exhibition of Vello Vinn, the most outstanding representative of the avant-garde during the 1970s in Estonia, and Kiwa, Estonian pop-artist at Tartu Art House. The exhibition was set up – considering Vinn’s artwork “Time II” – in the form of trapezes making the visitors take a closer look at the well-detailed printmakings. The show remixed the creations of the master Vinn with the new interpretations of the art pieces resulting in positive feedback from the public and media. Fresh and bold interpretations of Vello Vinn’s creation – such as a wallpaper or glass sculptures of Kiwa, brought a new, contemporary spell to his art. 

Kiwa, Andra Orn (NOBA) and Vello Vello Vinn

Unfortunately, the exhibition was ended by the sudden health crises. The art halls across Estonia were shut down for weeks, and the planned shows did reach its audiences. The team of NOBA decided to do something about it. In that spirit, the photo reportages and interviews about “unhappened exhibitions” were published in Estonian at offering a sneak peek to the shows of well-known artists such as Juss Piho, Liisa Kruusmägi, Flo Kasearu, Katrin Strohm and many others. 

The search for universal language at Tallinn Biennial

The first-ever Tallinn Biennial was one of the first large-scale events organised this summer. The international art event, themed “Global Language”, searched for a universal way for communication that would allow us to express our unique worlds and views to each other and stand up together against the global challenges at the same time. Altogether, the Tallinn Biennial programme, lasting almost a month, included 39 art events in Tallinn and nearby involving more than 300 000 people and reaching more than 3 million pairs of eyes via international and local media. 


Opening of Tallinn Biennial. Photo: Tanel Murd

The leading exhibition of Tallinn Biennial, “Doomsday Cathedral” by Edward von Lõngus, was dedicated to what the artist calls the only universal religion that unites all countries and nations, regardless of cultural background, skin colour or idea of God – MONEY.  The street art created on the 25- meter high steel plates told a compelling and imposing story about the capital-centric world, where death and destruction are seen as entertainment. The one of a kind art exhibition at Ülemiste City district, curated by the NOBA team, lured more than 6 000 enthusiasts to the abandoned factory building. 

To share the magnificent experience of “Doomsday Cathedral” with a broader audience, NOBA team decided to capture the exhibition with 3D cameras. By autumn Avar Agentuur turned it into a unique virtual tour – you need a smart device to access the venue, explore the outstanding artworks and read additional info about the exhibits. Using a VR set adds an extra layer to the experience. Read more and access the tour here.

Several layers of contemporary art

Besides the leading exhibition, Tallinn Biennial also hosted a humorous art project by Latvian artists Ieva Kraule-Kūna, and Elīna Vītola called “Artists Crisis Centre” “to provide support for the creative types cheated by Fortune or beaten by the hooves of Pegasus”. Also, NOBA team carried out the traditional Great Art Day in Freedom square despite the challenging weather conditions. The event introduced several art galleries, art tours and the audience had a chance to attend and enjoy the performances by Rag Elnyg (Grand Prix of Nordic & Baltic Young Artists Award 2019) and other Estonian artists.

Great Art Day at Freedom square. Photos: Ivar Hütt

A renewed exhibition, curated by Mary-Ann Talvistu, Kädi Talvoja and Tiit Pääsuke at Viinistu Art Museum was also opened during the biennial in July. Jaan Manitski, the landlord of Viinistu Art Harbour, situated at the Soviet-era fish factory territory, owns the most extensive private art collection in Estonia. The renewed exhibition brings together an outstanding selection of Estonian art, including favourites of auction houses and significant influencers of the contemporary art scene.

Spectacular street art and large-scale outdoor paintings play a significant role in bringing contemporary art closer to the general public. In autumn NOBA team contributed to the SmartEnCity project by creating the artworks by Mall Nukke (“Faun” and Vello (“Time I”) to the walls to reconstruct buildings in Tartu. 

Jumping board for fresh art

The eventful year is about to end with Nordic & Baltic Young Artist Award (NBYAA), organised by NOBA and art universities already for the fifth year. The competition in 2020 brings together 77 young talents from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland, who have just graduated from the art academy. As the winners of the Grand Prix and Painter’s Prize are decided amongst the international jury, the Public Choice Award is handed out to a talent who gained the most votes at the public voting. 

The competition aims to provide support to the artists just at the start of their careers – introducing the talents and their artworks to curators, gallerists, and the wider public. Check out the artists and their artworks attending the competition in 2020.

In addition to monetary prizes, the winners have an opportunity to showcase their artworks at the international arena. Last summer, Ignas Pavliukevičius from Lithuania, a winner of Fotografiska Tallinn Award in 2019, was invited to prepare a solo exhibition Fotografiska Tallinn. “Waterproof Heart”, opened in August, investigated if digital beings elicit empathy, and when are humans going to decide how they feel about digital creatures. The winners of the Grand Prix of NBYAA in 2018 and 2019, Elina Vitola and Rag Elnyg had the opportunity to showcase the art at Tallinn Biennial. 

“Waterproof Heart” at Fotografiska Tallinn. Photo: Ivar Hütt

To spread the information about art exhibitions and introduce the regional art scene overall, NOBA works tightly with providing a broader overview of relevant art trends and events. Exhibition calendar gives an overview of the events and shows as “Spotlight” section of the site gathers the most exciting art stories. Altogether the online gallery of introduces more than 6 000 artworks and 600 artists from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland.

In 2021 NOBA will contribute to the contemporary art sphere by bringing the art closer to its audience and coordinating several significant art events such as Tallinna Biennial, Art Week, Nordic & Baltic Young Artist Award many more.