NewsPRESS RELEASE 26.06.2019
Exhibtion "Estonian Song Celebrations 1869–2019. Commented emblem designs"
Over a century of Estonian song celebrations includes twenty-seven song celebrations.
The connection between the song celebrations and design can be portrayed through smaller items, such as costumes, flags, pendants, mascots, etc. However, the wider audience has been most exposed to the emblems whose familiar designs we recognise in printed material as well as in other formats.
From 20 June, these abundantly symbolic emblem designs, the key elements of visual identity, will be presented and decoded in the gallery of the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design, focusing on the symbols, fonts and other details that might not be obvious at first glance, or that have been skilfully amalgamated. The graphic designer and design historian Ivar Sakk has provided a commentary on what is depicted on the emblems.
An emblem is a form of concentrated visual information, which says something about the zeitgeist, essence and other contemporary trends surrounding the event. These song celebration emblems reflect different political regimes, ideological choices and aesthetic preferences. Often, a single song celebration emblem would use a variety of symbols, but one of the key shapes is the lyre, attributed to the ancient Greek god Apollo. It was included in the design for the emblem of the very first song celebration, most recently re-appearing on the cusp of the 21st century, in 1999.
The composers, conductors, concert repertoire and participating choirs of our song celebrations are well known, while the names of the designers of the emblems are long forgotten. This exhibition aims to showcase song celebration emblems and identify the names of their designers. In some cases, this has been possible, but several designs still remain anonymous. However, the name of the most prolific designer is known – Professor Paul Luhtein was a young man when he designed his first song celebration emblem in 1933, and an experienced artist when he designed his last in 1980. An image he created, the lyre-kannel, can be found in the visual design of almost all of the song celebrations of the second half of the 20th century.
As far as we know, the original designs by different designers have not survived, so this exhibition uses un-retouched reproductions that have been published in print over the years. These images have been enlarged ten times, and the wealth of information on each design has been explained in a visual narrative.
As a rule, the symbols and details depicted on the emblems that are integral to our national identity are telling, conveying the sense of change in political and cultural traits, contemporary design approaches as well as value judgements over time.
The exhibition is accompanied by a video recording from 1969, depicting the 100th anniversary of the song celebration tradition.
Exhibition curator and designer: Ivar Sakk
The exhibition received support from the Song and Dance Celebration Foundation (Laulu- ja Tantsupeo SA).
We are also grateful to the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum and the Estonian Film Archives.