NOBA Nordic Baltic contemporary art platform

The seafront quarter Noblessner invites visitors with a versatile restaurant scene, KAI art centre, PROTO invention factory, a promenade and a marina, but the area also hides a new bubbling gallery scene. NOBA had a chance to interview Marina Russakova, the founder of the new contemporary photo gallery PUNCTUM, which opened its doors last February. Marina explained the gallery's inception, its focus on contemporary photography, and its vision for the future.

Who are the founders of the gallery and what is the background story behind the creation of the gallery? 

I am the founder of Punctum Gallery, with a foundation rooted in art history and art theory complemented by previous studies in photography at EKA Avatud Akadeemia. Before delving into art theory, I worked in finance. Supported by my friend, Jana Anhalt, a professional photographer with a base between Tallinn and Geneva, we conceived the vision of establishing a contemporary photography gallery. Since then, our journey has taken us across Europe in search of artists to feature in Estonia. We thoroughly curate our selection of artists and projects, conducting extensive research.

Foto: Jana Anhalt

What kind of profile gallery is Punctum? 

So, Punctum Gallery is about contemporary conceptual photography. 

Is Punctum a fair gallery? How do you choose the fairs to participate in?

We plan to participate in fairs. The first one will be Foto Tallinn this year.

Who is the gallery curator and what are the criterias for choosing artists?

As an art historian and theoretician, I am currently involved in curatorial work. Meanwhile, we are also searching for a curator. We choose artists based on their relevance to modernity and the contemporary issues they explore in their artistic practice. We seek exciting expressions of ideas in the form of photography (as well as video, digital art, and installation). We pay attention to the artist’s career. Building trusting gallery-artist relationships is crucial for us, being the link in the “artist- gallery- collector” chain.

Foto: Marina Russakova

What kind of artist are you looking for? Are you a representative gallery, and what do you offer to artists? 

We aim to select artists to represent and present them at fairs while taking care of their career. Currently, the Punctum website is primarily in English as it is universally understandable. We have an almost ready Estonian version, but it requires some time to be completed, time is a luxury at the moment, with so many tasks at the beginning of our journey.

When was the first exhibition opened and how have the first months been? 

The gallery and the first exhibition “Shades of Her” was opened on February 15th. The three photographic projects presented at the exhibition, viewed through the lens of personal narratives of artists Éva Szombat, Ana Vallejo and Roxana Savin, offered a unique perspective on the main focus areas of a woman’s life: social, psychoemotional and sexual. We had about 300 visitors in 1.5 months. The public, in general, was intelligent and curious: art lovers and professionals of the local art scene.

Photos by Éva Szomba

What kind of exhibition program do you have for this year?

For this year we have the program ready. The first group exhibition was focused on feminist themes. The second is centring on ecology, specifically forests. The third will be about AI and more to come. In July, we will host a group exhibition featuring young Estonian artists.

Is there a public market for contemporary photography? Or is the marketing development consistent work?

Contemporary photography marketing definitely requires a lot of consistent work to create a circle of collectors. This first year, we’d like to try some strategies.

What new does the gallery offer to the art scene?

First, Punctum is the only gallery in Estonia focusing on conceptual photography. Sometimes we can see this kind of photography in Fotografiska, which shows more „blockbuster“ photography and big names. We deeply respect also Juhan Kuusi Dokfoto Keskus for their contributions to documental photography here. But our way lies in the contemporary art scene, we aim to demonstrate that contemporary photography is a significant part of contemporary art. We will also show many artists from abroad to widen the horizon of the local public, as we naturally know much more about our local scene.

Which audience is the gallery aiming at?

We welcome anyone interested in contemporary photography and hope to meet collectors who include photography in their collections. Each project we showcase has a very limited edition and the works are framed according to high museum standards. 

What can a visitor expect? 

Visitors can expect a professional conversation about showcased projects with both of us and can spend time in our growing library corner, filled with artistic photography books.

We look forward to building a community of people who share our interests and aim to represent our local artists abroad. 

Photos by Kristel Pallasma