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A-Gallery in 1994-2004

Lia Tüür in the book “A-galerii. Eesti autoriehte galerii 20 aastat” (2014)*

* “A-Gallery. Estonian art jewellery gallery for 20 years”

The period after Estonia regained independence was full of hope. Companies were founded and galleries were established. The idea to found a very own gallery of jewellery artists came about in 1993. A room with the area of 40 square metres in ARS jewellery studio in Hobusepea Street had been assigned into the possession of jewellery artists already years ago. It was located on ground floor towards Hobusepea Street, with large window and separate entrance. By 1993 it had been temporarily rented to the coppersmiths of ARS.

In the beginning of November I visited the director of the art foundation Mr Liiv, to talk about the possibility of returning the room to artists and establishing a gallery there. He agreed. Many calls were made, to invite people to participate and join us. Fortunately, in that period telephone calls were free of charge, as we had to call all through the week. In the middle of the month we held the first meeting on the issue of the gallery. Toivo Laos drafted explicit foundation articles of public limited company.

Foundation meeting of AS Autoriehe was held on November 25, 1993. The number of shareholders was 46 and Ene Valter was elected Chairperson of the Management Board. Approval had to be obtained also from the management of the Artists’ Association and also a presentation had to be held for introduction of the enterprise. Their answer was positive.

Actual return of the room was very hard. The head of jewellery studio had exchanged and hoped that delay tactics would preserve the previous situation. We got the room only on March 1, 1994. Meanwhile there were several meetings, payment of shares and conclusion of agreements. However, for artists it gave time for creation of new items.

Two following months were spent repairing and furnishing the gallery. All this was done on our own. Height of the ceiling was 3.5 metres and scaffolds were unstable, but we managed to paint the ceilings and walls white. There was much trouble with the floor, as it was really spoilt. The most diligent repairers were Krista Laos, Ene Valter, Kaie Parts, Mari Pärtelpoeg, Vaida Suits etc. The Heritage Board specified the colours of front door. However, when Ive Köögard had painted the door with small squares, they did not like the shade any more and the door had to be re-painted.

Katrin Amos, who knew well the field of interior design, had prepared a basement room for exposition of jewellery in Moleni Gallery in the beginning of Viru Street. This was a very useful experience – she planned the interior design. Furniture details were transported from Tartu with the van of Harvi Varkki, while Heldur Pruuli helped to assemble the furniture and took care of the locks. Andres Amos fixed the sales counter. Everybody cannot be listed by name, all put their share into the activities.

The great common work bore fruit – work was taken over on May 6 and on May 10, 1994 A-Gallery opened its doors. The first head of the gallery was Ene Valter, the salesperson Jaana Varkki, later Heldo Korbe. Every day one of the shareholders provided assistance.

Ene Valter recalls: The first years of operation of A-Gallery were characterised by professional enthusiasm and willingness to work among the artists. Every day I came to work eagerly, because the day seemed to be interesting. Opening of a gallery intended solely for jewellery did not arouse interest and excitement only in Estonia, but also in the neighbouring countries – Sweden, Finland and elsewhere. We were constantly praised as the largest jewellery gallery in Nordic countries. Excursions came to visit us and it often happened that visits to our gallery were included also in the programme of high guests of the city. For example the actors of a popular American TV serial „Santa Barbara“, which was shown on TV in that period, visited us during their stay in Tallinn.

In the first years, good sales results of the gallery depended on foreign tourists. Estonian people were eager to visit us as an exhibition, but purchase possibilities were low. I even remember our first purchaser, who was an employee of the US embassy, fond of the earrings made by Tiina Käesel. We had constantly to communicate with the purchasers, introduce the artists and tell stories. Once I had a long conversation with a nice Estonian lady from abroad. We moved between the showcases, accompanied by my continuous praising speech, and finally we had chosen three rings that she liked. Hoping that she will select one of them, I told stories about the artists and their creation. To my surprise the lady said in very rugged Estonian language that my sales effort was very good and she would buy all three.

Once a young Irishman came to the gallery and said that she has five sisters and needs a present for all of them. We became a bit confused and selected the jewellery. Finally he asked, if he can get also some concession from such a large purchase. As the situation had become very amusing, we naturally agreed, with the condition that he would perform an Irich dance for us. And he was pleased to do it.

In my opinion, one pleasant event was painting eggs for the Easter. Small window exhibition was designed, using the eggs painted by the artists, and almost every year we succeeded also to sell most of the eggs.

In January 1997 Ene Valter resigned from the post of the head of the gallery, in order to found her own company. Mari Pärtelpoeg was elected her successor. She resigned on September 1, 1999 and the signatory continued on the post. Kadi Maranik became the salesperson.

In the first months, our activities were determined by the approaching new millennium. To celebrate it, we organised a major joint exhibition. In the further schedule, personal exhibitions of authors exchanged every three weeks, while joint exhibitions were held during turn of a year and spring holidays. In the beginning the exhibitions were designed by some shareholder, later by Taimi Soo, whose solutions were always fresh and smart.

We were glad to celebrate 80th birthday of our beloved teacher Salme Raunam in our small gallery on March 13, 2001. Well, too small for many jewellery items. A man came and asked: “I travelled all the way from Viljandi, now where is Raunam?”

Jüri Arrak opened a jewellery exhibition of his anniversary year in A-Gallery on October 12, 2001. Although he said that jewellery format was too small for him, the exposition was nice and successful.

Shareholders were interested in personal exhibitions and the list became full quickly. There were also several exciting visiting artists, and EAA graduates in summer. 17-18 exhibitions were held in a year. All of these were not equal, but some of them were really high-level. Active exhibiting brought people to the gallery and promoted the sales. Contact with purchasers was good, many orders were fulfilled. Shareholders assisted constantly the work in the gallery. Common interest made people closer, we were happy for the happy and sad for the sad. Optimistic character of the salesperson Kadi Maranik was a great advantage. In summer the jewellery students of EAA enabled her to rest. A-Gallery had become a speciality centre.

I retired in 2004 and Kärt Maran was elected the following head of A-Gallery. Ene Valter became the Chairperson of OÜ Autoriehe.

Ene Valter recalls: As the small rooms of A-Gallery prevented us from certain development, we started to think of the extension of the gallery. Relative bold positive decision was adopted in 2004 and construction could start in the current premises of A-Gallery. Authors of the interior design are Karli Luik and Ralf Lõoke. Vision of the new gallery by Kärt Maran, who was the head of the gallery at the moment, was innovative and provided several possibilities.

On May 10, 2005 A-Gallery opened its doors in the new premises on the corner of Hobusepea and Pikk streets, before the final move was completed. This is a short overview of the first half of the history of A-Gallery.

Salme Raunam’s jubilee in 2001.

From left: K. Parts, R. Vinn, T. Käesel, A. Mölder, J. Arrak, S. Raunam, M. Morgen-Hääl, H. Varkki, J. Vahtramäe, Ü. Voosalu, L. Tüür, K. Maranik, H. Tassa

From left: E. Valter, T. Käesel, J. Bertašauskis, H. Pruuli, M. Pärtelpoeg, A. Paal, H. Jelle, K. Laos, A. Kapsta, L. Pruuli, T. Aru, L. Ilo, Õ. Kütt, M Morgen-Hääl, L. Tüür, A. Mölder, H. Raadik, M.Käbin, A. Raunam