First Tallinn Print Triennial took place in 1968 under the name “Present Day and Graphic Form” where three Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania took part. Initially it was meant to be a biennial but in practice the exhibitions appear as triennials. At that time Estonia was still under the annexation of the Soviet Union where monumental art, sculpture and painting were much favored. This gave birth to an urge among Estonian printmakers, to create a forum for demonstrating their identity. Mental support from colleagues from Latvia and Lithuania was got easily.
Prints, which are easily multiplied and distributed, became an important medium for the innovative artistic ideas and alternative relations. But it was not possible to organize such big events only for 3 Baltic States as it indicated too strongly the unity of the Baltic States versus the Soviet Union. For years it was not possible to continue without “guest” artists from Moscow, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Minsk (in 1971); in 1974 it was a step forward already and in addition to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Minsk, Kharkov and Yakutsk it was possible to invite guests also from “sister” towns as Schwerin (German Democratic Republic) and Szolnok (Hungary).
The 8th Tallinn Print Triennial in 1989 was held in the conditions of first bigger changes in the political system. In addition to 3 Baltic countries, and Leningradit was already possible to invite artists from Finland, Poland, Canada and Hungary.
Further searches for partners from abroad concluded in special exhibitions from Belgium, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark in 1992 and from Great Britain, Italy, Japan and Germany in 1995.
Crucial year for Tallinn Print Triennials was 1998. For the first time the Triennial was open to the whole world and more than 1000 regulations were sent out.
The structure of the Tallinn Print Triennial was changed and it got 3 layers:
– Baltic exhibition
– International competition
– Curated part
The artists taking part in the two firstly mentioned divisions compete also for the prizes of the Triennial: grand prix, 3 equal prizes, diplomas and several special prizes.
Especially the last mentioned feature and the themes of the curated exhibitions give Tallinn Print Triennials since the 11th exhibition a different meaning and a broader approach to the essence of a print and printmaking in the context of contemporary art world.