Main building of the Art Museum of Estonia � Kumu. Architect: Pekka Vapaavuori. Photo: Kaido Haagen
The Art Museum of Estonia was founded on November 17th, 1919, but it was not until 1921 that it got its first permanent building – the Kadriorg Palace, built in the 18th century. In 1929 the palace was expropriated from the Art Museum in order to rebuild it as the residence of the President of Estonia. The Art Museum of Estonia was housed in several different temporary spaces, until it moved back to the palace in 1946. In September, 1991 the Kadriorg Palace was closed, because it had totally deteriorated by then. At the end of the year the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia decided to guarantee the construction of a new building for the Art Museum of Estonia in Kadriorg. Until then the Knighthood House at Toompea Hill served as the temporary main building of the Art Museum of Estonia. The exhibition there was opened on April 1, 1993. The Art Museum of Estonia premanently closed down the exhibitions in that building in October 2005.
At the end of the 1970s, in the 1980s the first branches of the Art Museum of Estonia were founded. Starting from the 1995 all the branches offer different educational programmes for children and young people. In 1996 the exhibition hall on the first floor of Rotermann Salt Storage was opened, this branch was closed in May 2005. In summer 2000 the restored Kadriorg Palace was opened, but not as the main building of the Art Museum of Estonia, but as a branch. Kadriorg Art Museum now exhibits the foreign art collection of the Art Museum of Estonia.
At present there are five active branches of the Art Museum of Estonia: Kadriorg Art Museum (Kadriorg Palace and Mikkel Museum), Niguliste Museum, Adamson-Eric Museum, and Kumu Art Museum (the new main building of the Art Museum of Estonia)
For the first time during its nearly 100-year-old history, the Art Museum of Estonia has a building that both meets the museum’s requirements and is worthy of Estonian art in its collections. Kumu Art Museum is a multifunctional art museum that includes exhibition halls, an auditorium that offers diverse possibilities, and an education centre for children and art lovers of all ages.
The collection that consists of 58 825 pieces is displayed in the following branches:
- the permanent exhibition of classics of Estonian art (18th century – II World War), the permanent exhibition of Estonian art from 1945-1991 and contemporary art at Kumu Art Museum;
- ecclesiastical Medieval and Baroque art from the period between 13th –18th century, silverware of guilds, craft corporations, Brotherhood of the Black Heads and churches at Niguliste Museum;
Kadriorg Art Museum;
- European and Russian art from the period between 16th –20th century in the Kadriorg Palace, and a valuable collection of the 16th –20th c. art from Western Europe, Russia and China, donated to the museum by Johannes Mikkel, at Mikkel Museum – at Kadriorg Art Museum;
- Art of Adamson-Eric (1902–1968), one of the most outstanding Estonian painters of the 20th century, at Adamson-Eric Museum