Art scholar on Päts monument: 'Almost everything here is wrong'

Konstantin Päts.
Konstantin Päts. Source: ERR

Gregor Taul, an art historian and semiotician, said on the morning show "Terevisioon" that Estonia should reflect more broadly on whether the construction of new monuments is the best way forward.

The line between monument and sculpture is blurred, Gregor Taul, an art scholar, said.

"It's very easy for academics to split hairs; for example, I was once taught at school that a monument differs from a sculpture in that something happened on the site of the monument and is commemorated exactly on that site," he said, pointing out that this makes Jaan Kross sculpture in Tallinn's Old Town a real monument because he lived nearby.

The sculpture of renowned Estonian author Jaan Kross in Tallinn's Old Town openined in 2022. Source: Aleksandr Gužov

"On the other side, I am in favor of art being very conversational, and since these artworks belong to the public space, the viewers of all monuments and sculptures should be able to discern whether they are one or the other."

We should be rather skeptical today about new sculptures in general. "We could look for other possibilities that are not as monumental, so stone, so bronze etc., on the other hand, we can't overlook the fact that memory-work through various statues and wood carvings is as old as humanity," Taul said, adding that societies probably need such places to gather and, so to speak, mark their territory.

Taul said that a separate issue is the imbalance between male and female monuments. "I just read that 2,400 of Denmark's 2,500 sculptures are of men, 50 are of animals, and eight are of women, which is absurdly disproportionate," he said, adding that the concern is worldwide.

"This is also an issue for Tallinn's urban art curator: should we re-enact Tallinn's urban space and pay attention to the women who have been involved in its culture and politics, or should we skip a few steps and decide that we don't need that many monuments?" the art scholar emphasized.

Taul described Vergo Vernik, the author of the memorial to Konstantin Päts, as a beautiful and kind person: "It's difficult for me to say anything negative about this artwork."

"I saw 'Lehman Brothers,' a play in which everything ran smoothly and the music was excellent, but when I walked out and saw the Päts' head, I was speechless."

"Almost everything here is wrong," he said, adding that the location is definitely not right.

"Perhaps in Viimsi, near the war museum, it would be suitable, but in urban terms, the site directly next to the theater is wrong, as is the way in which his personality shows even stronger through the pedestal's immense size, the force, and the head," Taul said. However, looking at how scanty our history is, maybe putting this up is a good idea, he added.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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