“The Art of Being Good” Exhibition at the Tallinn Art Hall

Reflecting on an international group show that analyzed the ethics of art today

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Rising along the central Freedom Square of Tallinn, Estonia, the Tallinn Art Hall consistently hosts thought-provoking exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. One of three institutions comprising the historic Tallinn Art Hall Foundation, the gallery’s mission includes advancing the dialogue around art internationally. And with The Art of Being Good, a recent group show that featured 15 artists from around the globe, they dug into this dialogue as it corresponds to the traumas facing every human on the planet. Thematically positioned around the question of “What would responsible art look like?” the show’s works aimed to offer alternatives to potentially harmful practices in the art world. Rather than let artists espouse ideas on other societal members and crises, they set the lens inward.

“Although tackling the ecological, social and economic components of the crisis is normal in art,” Curator Siim Preiman explains, “artworks and exhibitions rarely direct attention toward their own role in the ruinous sequence of events. Therefore, we see a record of the people living in poverty, who don’t receive a cut from the profits of exhibiting the work depicting them, and artworks created from poisonous artificial materials, which warn us of the impending plastic dystopia.”

From Estonian sculptor Uku Sepsivart’s waxy “Bee Dependent Existence” (2018) to moss-modified found pieces from Polish visual artist Diana Lelonek’s “Center for Living Things” (2016-ongoing), repurposed items and natural materials come together with purpose. Every artist explicitly declared their materials. The location itself excluded all single-use components typically employed for contemporary art exhibitions. Further, they limited use and manipulation of existing venue materials to the best of their ability. The Art of Being Good is the third of five sequential exhibits on site to address social consciousness. It telegraphs the value of the institution, demonstrates thoughtful use of art and artists, and reminds the world that Estonia’s out to help too.

Images courtesy of Karel Koplimets