- About Kumu
- Learn and Explore
- Kumu Auditorium
The Kumu Art Museum is the headquarters and a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia (Museum of Estonia until 1928), which was built to be a multifunctional contemporary art museum and to also satisfy the need for conserving and exhibiting the world's largest collection of Estonian art, which is comprised of 60,000 works.
For the first time in its almost century-long history, the Art Museum of Estonia has a building that specifically conforms to the needs of a museum and is worthy of Estonian art. The international architectural competition, which was held in 1993–1994, was won by the Finnish architect Pekka Vapaavuori. The construction of the building was started in 2002. The opening ceremonies for the Kumu Art Museum were held on 17 February 2006 and attending by a large crowd of visitors. The doors were opened to the public on Saturday, 18 February at 11 am.
Kumu's history, which is a part of the history of the Art Museum of Estonia, is currently, to a great extent, a construction story. Today, the local, as well as international, public have become accustomed to the museum. An in-house rhythm of activities has developed. Slowly, we are starting to forget what a great shift Kumu caused in the reality of the Estonian art landscape. The Kumu story is being created, being born of Kumu's exhibitions and activities, and its role as a carrier and transmitter of cultural values.
The Art Museum of Estonia was established on 17 November 1919. Before the completion of Kumu, the museum operated in many different spaces. For the longest period, the museum was located in the Kadriorg Palace – the palace was given to the museum in 1921, but expropriated in 1929, when it was redesigned to serve as an official government building. The museum's temporary building burned down as a result of the bombing on 9 March 1944. Three thousand valuable exhibits, along with the library, archive and stock, were also destroyed. The 10,000 works of art that were evacuated to the countryside and to other buildings by the museum employees did not suffer any harm.
In the 1930s, the construction of a building for the art museum on a lot between Mere Blvd. and Aia Street was on the agenda. An international architectural competition was organised in 1936, which was won by the Estonian architects Edgar Johan Kuusik and Erich Jacoby; the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto came in second. However, World War II started and the building was not built.
In 1946, the museum's collections were again concentrated in the Kadriorg Palace and the museum operated there until 1991. Then, due to the poor condition of the building, the doors had to be closed to the public and, in 1992, the museum had to move out again. More acutely than ever before, the need to construct a building for the museum became obvious. A search for possible locations was initiated. From among eleven possible locations in different areas of Tallinn, the Lasnamäe slope at the end of Weizenberg Street in Kadriorg was chosen. In the meanwhile, the museum was given the Rüütelkonna (Knighthood) Building on Toompea Hill in Tallinn as their temporary home, where exhibitions began on 1 April 1993. The Art Museum of Estonia discontinued its exhibition activities in that building in October 2005.
In the meanwhile, the museum's activities had expanded in the form of branches: the Museum of Applied Arts was opened in 1980, the Adamson-Eric Museum in 1983, and the Kristjan Raud Museum and the Niguliste Museum in 1984. Since 1995, active educational programmes have also been undertaken in the museum's former and current branches: children and teens can participate in interesting museum classes and art studies. In 1996, an exhibition hall was opened on the first floor of the Rotermann Salt Storage, which discontinued its activities in May 2005. In the summer of 2000, the restored Kadriorg Palace was reopened, no longer as the museum's headquarters, but as a branch – the Kadriorg Art Museum – where the Art Museum of Estonia's collection of foreign art is displayed.
Today, the Art Museum of Estonia is an institution with several museums: the Kadriorg Art Museum, Mikkel Museum, Niguliste Museum, and Adamson-Eric Museum. Since February 2006, the Kumu Art Museum – the new headquarters of the Art Museum of Estonia – has been open to the public.
On 12 November 1991, the Supreme Council of the Estonian Republic decided that the government should guarantee the construction of a new building for the Art Museum of Estonia.
In 1993-1994, an international architectural competition for the new building's design was organised. The Union of Estonian Architects commissioned the Looveeri Architectural Office to prepare the competition. Since the architectural competitions for buildings for the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art (Kiasma) were taking place at the same time, the technical conditions and space programmes for these projects were thoroughly examined, along with international architectural competition legislation and the standards for the construction of art museums recommended by the International Union of Architects (UIA) and the International Council on Museums (ICOM).
Architects from ten countries participated in the competition, and 233 designs were submitted. The largest number of participants (over a hundred) came from Finland, and all seven prizes were awarded to Finns. The decision of the international panel was unanimous, and the design by Finnish architect Pekka Vapaavuori, "Circulos", was declared the winner.
Marika Valk, the former director of the Art Museum of Estonia has recalled, "I met Pekka Vapaavuori for the first time on 15 April 1994 at the awards ceremony for the winner of the architectural competition for the Art Museum of Estonia's new building. The competition winner was a young Finn with a long braid who had recently graduated from university. I said at the time that I was very glad that Pekka was so young – considering the hundred-year tradition of building the Art Museum of Estonia, perhaps he would even see the building completed."
Then, the battle to have the building constructed began. It took years to overcome all the obstacles and it was not until 2002 that an excavator started work at the foot of Lasnamäe Hill.
On 13 May 1994, a contract was signed between the Art Museum and the architect Pekka Vapaavuori to continue the design work. This was only possible because a cooperation agreement was signed at the same time between the Art Museum of Estonia and the Finnish Rakennushallinto (currently Engel OY), based on which their specialists provided free consultations on the plans for the new museum building.
From 1995 to 2001, the specialists from Engel OY advised both the museum employees and the designers, and carried out in-service training. Among other things, Engel OY specialises in the specifics of museum construction. It has reconstructed the Ateneum in Helsinki, the Museum of Applied Arts and the History Museum, as well as designing and being the project manager for the construction of Kiasma.
In 1999, the preliminary project for the building was completed without using any budgetary resources. Pekka Vapaavuori, Engel OY, the Estkonsult engineering firm from Estonia and the Olaf Granlund OY engineering firm from Finland, as well as the museum's employees, participated.
From 1995 to 1998, the project received no government financing. The Art Museum continued to resolve problems related to the new museum. On 5 November 1996, the Riigikogu (parliament) of the Republic of Estonia passed a resolution regarding the construction of the Estonian Academy of Music, the Art Museum of Estonia, and the Estonian National Museum, which specified that the construction of the new building for the Art Museum of Estonia was to begin in 1999. This resolution placed an obligation on the Government of Estonia to find budgetary and non-budgetary resources. This resolution was also fulfilled to a certain extent because, in 1999 and 2000, the design work was financed from the national budget.
In 2001, the Ministries of Finance and Culture worked out a new scheme for financing the construction of the new museum building, which was based on an amendment to the Gambling Act, passed by the Riigikogu on 13 March 2002. In 2001, the Foundation for the Construction of the Art Museum was organised by the government, with the assignment to continue the design work on the new museum building at a professional level and to start the construction in 2002. The construction of the new Art Museum building was completed in September 2005.
In order to be sure of the correctness of the Art Museum's new building's parameters, the museum invited the international consultancy firm Lord Cultural Resources (headed by Barry Lord, an international museum expert from Canada) to review the project, and the work was given a positive assessment.
In 2004, the new museum also got its name. A competition was organised to name the museum and from the many different suggestions that were made, Kumu – kunsti muuseum (art museum in Estonian) – was chosen as most suitable.