Anu Põder’s work ‘Tongues (Activation Version)’ was acquired by the Tate Museum

An art installation by the late Anu Põder entitled ‘Tongues (Activation Version)’ (1998) was acquired by the Tate Collection in the United Kingdom along with the original molds and reproduction rights. ‘Tongues’ is the first artwork by an Estonian artist to be acquired by the Tate collection. Purchasing the work was the culmination of the Tate Modern curators’ systematic research, which started by mapping postwar Estonian art along with curators’ meetings with artists and art historians in Estonia over the past several years.


In July 2018, the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center (ECADC) in cooperation with philanthropist initiative Outset Estonia hosted a delegation of curators and Tate Modern’s Eastern Europe Acquisitions Committee. At an annual meeting in London in 2019, based on the recommendations of the museum’s curators, the committee decided to acquire Anu Põder’s work for their collection. As a general rule, acquisitions are publicly announced once a work has physically been handed over to the collection. Tate acquired the edition of ‘Tongues’ exhibited at the Baltic Triennial 13 in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2018, the original molds, and the right to reproduce the work. The sculpture is made out of soap in different shades of pink accompanied by a tin bowl with water. One version of the work made by the artist in 1998 belongs to the Art Museum of Estonia (EKM). Throughout the course of the whole process, Tate’s curators communicated with representatives of Anu Põder’s estate.


Karin Laansoo from the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center, who was present during the vote of the purchasing committee, said that the pleasure of the team of curators at the Tate Modern on acquiring the work for their collection was very clear. The inclusion of Põder’s work at the Liverpool Biennale almost immediately after it arrived in the museum’s collection is quite rare and demonstrates what an important gap the artist’s original approach fills in the international art world.


Anu Põder (1947-2013) was an Estonian sculptor and installation artist whose work has become increasingly visible in the international art world over the past five years. Põder mainly used textiles, wax, plaster, soap, glue, plastic and wood in her work. She began actively participating in exhibitions in the late 1970’s. Contrary to the general trend of bronze sculpting in the late Soviet era, Anu Põder experimented with the changing physical and cultural meanings of ephemeral materials. Her work is based primarily on the artist’s own life and both material and mental changes brought about by family life, the everyday life of the Soviet era, and rapid changes in re-independent Estonia.


Recent exhibitions of Põder’s work include a large retrospective exhibition ‘Anu Põder. Be Fragile! Be Brave!’ curated by Rebeka Põldsam at the Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn in 2017, and an updated version of the same exhibition at the Pori Art Museum in Finland in 2019. In the summer of 2019, Anu Põder’s exhibition ‘Space For My Body’ was held at La Galerie Noisy-Le-Sec in Paris. Her work has been shown in group exhibitions in Vilnius, Berlin, Moscow, and Vienna. ‘Tongues (Activation Version)’, now part of Tate’s collection, will be on display as part of the Liverpool Biennale in summer 2021 at the Tate Liverpool Museum.



Anu Põder ‘Tongues’ (1998, 2018), installation view from the Baltic Triennial 13. GIVE UP THE GHOST exhibition at the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius (CAC). Photo: Andrej Vasilenko