Art historian: Päts monument interpretation in eye of beholder

Art historian Anders Härm says the jury in a recent competition to
pick a memorial design for Estonia's first president, Konstantin
Päts, picked the best of what they had been presented with, adding
that it allows for more interpretations than its creators may have
originally envisaged.

"It has a certain artistic quality, that is, it is not necessarily associated with solemnity and staidness, but has brought with it all sorts of comparisons already widespread on the Internet – from those calling it 'soft and furry', to Päts' head to Japanese manga," Härm said, ERR's Culture portal reports.

The winning design, entitled "Head of State" ("Riigipea) and designed by Toivo Tammik and Vergo Vernik, has met some pushback, with Estonian Art Academy rector Mart Kalm calling it hardly Estonia's greatest artistic achievement.

Jury panellist and art professor Krista Kodres said you can't please everyone all of the time, with Härm saying it was not worse of a choice than any of the other entrants.

Härm said any solemn connotations could be offset by more playful interpretation, even if this was not the artists' intention, adding the unveiling could be the clarion call for more public debate on what works of art in public spaces should look like.

The statue is to be housed next to the Estonia Theater, home of the Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper), in central Tallinn.

Another person who spotted a real-life resemblance between the design and a notorious figure was Erkki Bahovski journalist and editor-in-chief of Diplomaatia, published by the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS).

"I looked at the design of the Päts statue and recalled quite automatically the fascist headquarters, with its image of Benito Mussolini," Bahovski wrote on his social media page, referring to the Palazzo Braschi in Rome, which housed the Italian dictator's headquarters during his reign (see photo).

One of the many lookalikes to the new Konstantin Päts memorial is this one, an image of Mussolini which once graced his headquarters in Rome. Source: Erkki Bahovski/Wikimedia Commons

Konstantin Päts (1874-1956) was the first president of the Republic of Estonia (1938–1940). He is considered to be the most remarkable politician of the pre-war Estonian Republic and repeatedly led Estonian governments including during the most difficult time the state faced, at the beginning of the 1918-1920 War of Independence.

At the same time, he remains a controversial figure to some due to perceptions of authoritarian rule, particularly during the so-called "era of silence" in the mid-1930s. He died in Siberia in 1956 after being deported by the Soviets.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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