Legendary art collector Matti Milius dies

Matti Milius (Postimees/Scanpix)
6/4/2015 5:33 PM
Category: Culture

Matti Milius, the owner of one of the largest Estonian modern art collections, is dead at 69.

Milius (1945-2015) was a legendary figure in the Estonian art scene for decades. He owned more than 1,200 art works and paintings, which he had been collecting since the 1960s.

The art works first went on display in 1968 and have since been exhibited across Estonia, but also in Finland, Armenia and Latvia.

He collected the works in an unusual method – not by buying, but mostly receiving them directly from the artists as gifts. The habit started in 1962, while Milius was still at school. A friend of his, daughter of an ex libris researcher Udo Ivask, gave Milius an ex libris each time he earned a good mark in math, physics, English or Russian.

This sparked a huge art interest in Milius and over the years he would become best mates with most of the Estonian masters. Somehow he managed to persuade most of the artists to give him at least one of their masterpieces as a gift, sometimes even multiple works. Eventually, it was almost an honor for the artists to have their work in Milius's collection.

In the 1980s, Milius organized an underground anti-Soviet movement, which printed literature otherwise banned by the Communist authorities. It didn't go unnoticed, however – the Soviet KGB was keeping a close eye and harassed him.

Despite the considerable value of his huge art collection, estimated to be worth millions, Milius lived modestly and never sold his works. In fact, he ended his life in poverty, living in a social housing estate in Tartu. Earlier in the year, a fire broke out in the building and Milius was forced to jump from a window of his second-floor room. He hurt his spine badly and never fully recovered from his injuries. He died on June 3 at a hospital in Tartu.

His legacy will be the largest private art collection in Estonia.

S. Tambur

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