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Exhibition “Ülo Sooster: Prison and Love” at the Estonian History Museum’s Great Guild Hall

Ülo Ilmar Sooster (1924–1970) is celebrated as one of the most prominent representatives of Estonian and Soviet modernism. This exhibition marks the centenary of the artist’s birth and serves as the inaugural event in a series dedicated to his memory.

“Ülo Sooster: Prison and Love” is a collaborative project between the Sooster Foundation and the Estonian History Museum, offering insights into the artist’s early career. Sooster’s life was marked by his time in three significant places: Hiiumaa (his home), Tartu (where he studied) and Karaganda (a prison camp). All these places are depicted in the artist’s paintings and prints. Visitors will encounter Sooster’s talented family from Hiiumaa, learn about the Tartu State Art Institute of the 1940s and meet the artist’s fellow students. The exhibition also presents a selection of the works Sooster created during his time in the prison camp. The themes of the Gulag and love pervade the entire exhibition. Ülo Sooster was arrested in 1949 along with five artist friends. While his internment in the Karaganda prison camp lasted for seven long years, there were also moments of brightness, and it was there that Sooster met his beloved future wife, Lidia Serkh.

“Ülo Sooster: Prison and Love” is a narrative exhibition about the power of talent, love and the pursuit of freedom. It is also a deeply emotional lesson from history. Visitors have the unique opportunity to view the collection of camp drawings belonging to the Sooster family, as well as paintings and prints from the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia, Tartu Art Museum, Hiiumaa Museum, the Estonian Academy of Arts and private collectors. The exhibition is complemented by reproductions of rare photographs and archival documents.

The exhibition “Ülo Sooster: Prison and Love” opens at the Great Guild Hall (17 Pikk Street, Tallinn) on 8 March and runs until 22 June 2024, accompanied by guided tours and lecture programmes.

Curators: Tenno Pent Sooster, Ksenya Remezova

Architectural design: Vitali Valtanen

Graphic design: Julia Valtanen

Project managers: Mikhail Ayvazov (Sooster Foundation), Kristi Leps (Estonian History Museum)

Supporters: Sooster Foundation, Cultural Endowment of Estonia