Graffiti in Estonia – art gallery on the streets

Source: Mextonia

Graffiti in Estonia – art gallery on the streets

Source: Mextonia

Street art is ever changing; the thrill is in knowing the masterpiece you saw today might be gone tomorrow.

You don't have to visit a showroom or museum to view art in Estonia; it's all around you on the streets. In Tallinn and Tartu you can find it almost everywhere, but colourful, detailed works can be seen in smaller places like Võru, Haapsalu and even the odd village. Graffiti is technically illegal in Estonia, yet has evolved beyond vandalism into a respected and beloved art form. Socially conscious street art serves as a commentary on current events, giving the observant visitor a glimpse into local society.

Where to look

Freehand graffiti is more common in Tallinn, while Tartu is known for its well-prepared stencil artworks. Tartu is dubbed the "cultural capital" of Estonia and has a noticeably high concentration of street art. You won't have to look far to find slogans and magical creatures on everything from lampposts to buildings. Some murals have been there for years and have become landmarks of the city. One sure-fire place to see new art is under bridges. Another tip is to check out the toilets at Genialists' Club, where a collection of funny and sometimes political graffiti is growing. Graffiti fans have compiled a street art map of Tartu, if you're keen on making a self-guided walking tour. 

Famous yet anonymous

One of Estonia's most famous street artists goes by the fictitious name Edward von Lõngus. His work covers many walls in Estonia's larger cities and can be recognised by his signature stencil technique, often in monochromatic hues. Estonian folk themes as well as pop culture and politics are often his subjects. Like many prominent street artists, Edward von Lõngus conceals his identity since his medium is prohibited by law. He says, however, that his encounters with police have been largely positive, with one policeman even encouraging him to keep creating art! Few people know Edward von Lõngus' true identity, but this hasn't stopped him from being praised by traditional art institutions like The Art Museum of Tartu, which purchased some of his work for their collection.

Street art events

Stencibility is the most popular street art event in Estonia. Established in 2010, it is held each summer in Tartu. The Mextonia Festival, held in June 2017, was a unique collaboration between Mexico and Estonia in honour of Estonia's upcoming centennial. The festival brought 50 colourful, new murals by 60 artists to Tallinn and other areas. In July 2017, Edward von Lõngus began the (R)estart Reality art tour of Europe which will bring murals to ten cities. Augmented reality artwork can already be viewed in Tallinn, Tartu, Brussels and Rome, and is coming soon to Helsinki, Berlin and further cities. The murals feature characters from Estonian history who can be brought to life. They move, talk and even sing when viewed through a smartphone with the free Restart Reality app, bringing a distinctly high-tech, Estonian edge to what was once simple graffiti. 

Last updated : 18.10.2017

In category: Tallinn, South Estonia, History & Culture

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