Published 16/06/2023 | 14:43

The Art Museum of Estonia in summer: from the Ukrainian avant-garde in Kumu to Michel Sittow and the glass lift in Niguliste

Kumu is the main building of the Art Museum of Estonia.

The Art Museum of Estonia has a lot to offer for any art lover. The museum, comprising five sites around Tallinn, host altogether 15 exhibitions ranging from Ukrainian avant-garde and Estonian women printmakers at the Kumu Art Museum to Finnish modernism at Kadriorg Art Museum and 16th-century altarpieces from Michel Sittow´s workshop in Niguliste Museum. 

The permanent exhibitions at the Kumu Art Museum present Estonian art through three centuries, from the 18th-century classics to the art of the turbulent 1990s. The extraordinary and fascinating exhibition Futuromarennia: Ukraine and Avant-Garde, which is on display at the museum until 10 September, presents the innovative artistic visions of the future that emerged in Ukrainian art between 1910 and 1920. The works of Oleksandra Ekster, David Burliuk, Vasyl Yermylov and many other remarkable Ukrainian artists come from the collections of museums that carry on working amidst ongoing attacks by the Russian aggressors. The exhibition Art in the Age of the Anthropocene explores the role of art during times of environmental crises. This largest-ever exhibition to focus on the relationship between art and the environment in Estonia is centred around three themes: representations of human impact on the environment in Estonian art history, the possibilities of contemporary art in coping with the environmental crisis, and the “green museum”: how to create sustainable exhibitions. This exhibition will remain open until 8 October. The exhibition Through the Black Gorge of Your Eyes, featuring works by Estonian women printmakers from the 1960s to the 1980s, will remain open until 5 November.

The permanent exhibition at the Kadriorg Art Museum showcases the highlights of foreign art from the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia: Western European and Russian paintings, prints, sculptures and applied art from the 16th–20th centuries. This summer’s temporary exhibition, The Dance of Colours: Finnish Modernist Art, features the colourful and expressive works of Finnish painters from the first decades of the 20th century.

At the nearby Mikkel Museum, visitors can explore the wide-ranging collection of Johannes Mikkel, one of the best-known art collectors in Estonia in the second half of the 20th century, as well as visit until 15 October the exhibition Setting Sail: Tiit Pruuli’s Art Collection, providing a glimpse into the history of Estonian sea painting from the end of the 19th century until today.

In Tallinn’s Old Town, every art and history lover should visit the Niguliste Museum to explore the best of medieval and post-Reformation ecclesiastical art in Estonia. The painting Dance of Death, created in the late 15th century in the workshop of the Lübeck master Bernt Notke, is unique in the world as the only surviving medieval dance of death painted on canvas. The brand new glass lift in the historic church tower, meanwhile, takes you through three floors to the viewing platform, where you can enjoy a unique view of the city and the Bay of Tallinn. The exhibition Michel Sittow in the North? Altarpieces in Dialogue, a first look at Michel Sittow’s workshop in Tallinn, is on display until 5 November. At the centre of the exhibition are the magnificent Bollnäs Holy Kinship Altarpiece, from northern Sweden, and the Tallinn Passion Altarpiece.

The Adamson-Eric Museum, just a few steps away from the Niguliste Museum, houses a permanent exhibition of the work of Adamson-Eric, one of the most versatile Estonian artists. Until 27 August, you can also visit the charming exhibition The Forest Behind the Trees, featuring landscape and forest paintings by well-known Estonian artists.

The Art Museum of Estonia combines five museums in Tallinn with a diverse exhibition programme. Three of the museums are located in Kadriorg Park: the Kumu Art Museum, with its modern architecture and an extensive permanent display of Estonian art, the Kadriorg Art Museum, housed in an 18th-century Baroque palace which showcases Western European and Russian art, and the Mikkel Museum, which features Johannes Mikkel’s collection and art from other private collections. In the heart of the Old Town, you’ll find the Niguliste Museum, with its wealth of historical ecclesiastical artworks, housed in a medieval church building, and the Adamson-Eric Museum, dedicated to the 20th century Estonian modernist Adamson-Eric. In addition to permanent exhibitions, all of the museums also host thematic temporary exhibitions.