The Politics of Migration and Mobility in the Art World (Book)

Transnational Baltic Artistic Practices across Europe

Explores the nature of artistic practices for highly mobile artists from the Baltic States, moving regularly across multiple borders across Europe in order to maintain their position on the global art world. Artists with trans-local homes that combine and connect homeland, host country and a unique understanding of home and belonging. 12 b/w illus.

Category: Visual Arts


While Eastern European migration is predominantly seen as one-way, permanent, for economic reasons and as going bilaterally from East to West Europe, this book investigates alternative patterns of migration and mobility across Europe.

This original new book explores how visual artists take part in regular cross-border mobilities, onward migrations and transnational communications across Europe for work and the effects of this on their feelings of home and belonging. It assesses how far there is a culture of mobility amongst visual artists from the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, for whom a combination of onward migration and regular cross-border mobilities is a necessity for career progression. This is due to the ‘glass ceiling’ in the Baltic States with regard to a lack of local art markets, few dealers buying art and governments not providing enough funding.

How then do artists from the Baltic States get onto the global art market in the face of such barriers? This is a particularly important question, as these artists come from a region where migration, mobilities and cross-cultural exchanges were not freely available during the Soviet Union. This transdisciplinary investigation into visual artists’ working practices, ways of moving and placing dwellings addresses this issue.

Mobile working practices have an impact on artists’ feelings of home and belonging, which can be seen in their artworks that compare different cultures. This is a result of their particular combination of onward migration and regular mobilities, the multiple flows in and out of the home cities and the workings of the global art market within which these artists are operating. Nevertheless, these movements are determined by the forces of the global art world, whereby a particular politics of migration and mobility is experienced by artists from the Baltic States wanting to ‘make it’ in the global art world.

With its focus on Baltic artists and their mobilities, the scope and space explored is the whole of Europe and the mobilities explored in this text are crucially enabled by the freedom of movement in the European Union. 

The book is multidisciplinary and at the intersection of art, geographic mobility and creative practice. It combines visual cultures and social sciences in order to answer questions more thoroughly as well as to contextualise an analysis of artworks in a conversation with the artists themselves.

This topic is current, with the situation of the ‘refugee crisis’ and Brexit that has created a culture of anti-immigration and resurgence in anti-Eastern European sentiment in government, mainstream media and society.

The book discusses the implications of these complex itineraries on the conventional sociological notions of home, mobility and diaspora. The author argues that artists form a ‘diaspora of practice’ rather than of ethnicity, their homes are multiple as are the directions of their settlement.

Primary appeal will be to artists and art professionals; scholars working and researching on mobilities and migration issues; those working on the concepts of belonging and home; sociologists; anthropologists; those in the fields of cultural studies and European Union studies.

Emma Duester is a lecturer in communication at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University in Vietnam and principal investigator on the research project entitled ‘The Digitization of Art and Culture in Hanoi, Vietnam’. 


1. Researching the Baltic States and its mobile professionals: Context and methodology

2. Cross-cultural exchange and cultural transition in the Baltic art worlds

3. The nature of artists’ work: Getting onto the global art market

4. Artists’ homescapes and a ‘homing aesthetics’



Appendix A: Interviewing artists and culture professionals

Appendix B: Artists’ bios and permissions

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