Published 05/07/2024 | 15:20

The Art Museum of Estonia this summer: From the greats of Latin American art at Kumu to the Spanish masters at the Kadriorg Art Museum

The exhibition History and Mystery: Latin American Art and Europe. Photo: Stanislav Stepaško

The Art Museum of Estonia has a lot to offer for any art lover. The museum, comprising five sites around Tallinn, host altogether 20 exhibitions.

The Art Museum of Estonia comprises five museums in Tallinn with a varied exhibition programme. The city’s largest and most prestigious park, Kadriorg, is home to the Kumu Art Museum, the Kadriorg Art Museum, and the Mikkel Museum, while the Niguliste Museum and the Adamson-Eric Museum are neighbours in the Old Town. These museums, each with its own image and focus, offer exceptional art exhibitions and a magical atmosphere that make your visit to the Estonian capital unforgettable.

Exhibitions in Summer 2024

Kumu Art Museum: the home of Estonian art

With its modern architecture and fascinating permanent exhibitions of Estonian art, the Kumu Art Museum can be called the home of Estonian art, as it exhibits the most important works of Estonian art history. The permanent exhibitions of Kumu present Estonian art through three centuries: from the golden age of 18th-century classics to the pivotal art of the 1990s.

The exhibition History and Mystery: Latin American Art and Europe. Photo: Karolin Köster

This summer, Kumu is surprising art lovers with the international exhibition History and Mystery: Latin American Art and Europe, which features works by Diego Rivera, Fernando Botero and Joaquín Torres-García, among others. The largest ever exhibition of Latin American art in Estonia features works from two different eras: the Spanish colonial period in the 17th–19th centuries, and the first half of the 20th century. In parallel, seven imaginative paintings by the British-born surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, who spent much of her life in Mexico, will be exhibited at Kumu.

While visiting Kumu, you can also see the homoerotic works of the Estonian-born Baltic German artist, writer and thinker Elisàr von Kupffer at the exhibition Elisarion: Elisàr von Kupffer and Jaanus Samma and visit the exhibition Guardians of Morality and Women of Passion, which explores images of sex work in Estonian art. For those interested in contemporary art, the large solo exhibition The Secret of Adam by one of Estonia’s most original artists, Jevgeni Zolotko, is a must-see.

After these art experiences, enjoy a glass of wine on the cosy terrace of the Kumu café and reflect on which Estonian artists now hold a place in your heart, how Latin American art has influenced countries and nations, and what meanings the works of Baltic German artists carry today.

Kadriorg Art Museum: a baroque gem in the middle of a picturesque park

One of the gems of the gorgeous Kadriorg Park is the Kadriorg Art Museum, housed in an 18th-century baroque palace.

The permanent exhibition at the Kadriorg Art Museum presents the best of foreign art from the collection of the Art Museum of Estonia: Western European and Russian paintings, graphic art, sculpture and applied art from the 16th–20th centuries.

This summer, the museum will also host the exhibition España Blanca y Negra: Vision of Spain, from Fortuny to Picasso, which focuses on the efforts of Spanish modernists at the turn of the last century to decipher the nature of their homeland. The exhibition includes works by great masters: Joaquín Sorolla, Ignacio Zuloaga and Hermenegildo Anglada Camarasa, among others.

Complete your visit with tasty treats in the lovely café of the palace, contemplating life, people and art. Ars longa, vita brevis.

You can discover treasures from private collections at the Mikkel Museum

Established in the former kitchen building of Kadriorg Palace, the Mikkel Museum focuses on presenting private collections and reflecting on the collecting of art in general.

The core of the museum’s permanent exhibition is a side-by-side display of European and Chinese ceramics and porcelain, as well as Western European paintings from the collection of the art collector Johannes Mikkel.

Until the end of September, you can visit the exhibition The Kügelgens: The Story of One Baltic-German Family at the Mikkel Museum. The exhibition takes the viewer on a journey that began in Estonia in 1798, when twin brothers, the portraitist and history painter Gerhard (1772–1820) and the landscape painter Carl (1772–1832) Kügelgen, arrived from Germany. The exhibition tells the story of a single family, but it also offers a broader view of the various facets of Baltic German culture in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Mediaeval art meets history at the Niguliste Museum

While in the Old Town of Tallinn, every art and history lover should visit the Niguliste Museum, which displays the best of mediaeval and post-Reformation ecclesiastical art in Estonia.

Dance of Death. Workshop of the Lübeck master Bernt Notke. Late 15th century. Art Museum of Estonia. Photo: Meeli Küttim

The painting Dance of Death in the permanent exhibition of the museum, created in the late 15th century in the workshop of the Lübeck master Bernt Notke, is unique: it is the only surviving mediaeval dance of death in the world painted on canvas. The glass lift, which opened last year in the historic church tower of the museum, takes you to the sky-deck, where you can enjoy a unique view of the city of Tallinn and its bay. It is no wonder that the tower of Niguliste has become one of the favourite places of Instagram users in Tallinn.

While taking the modern glass lift up to the tower of Niguliste, stop at the tower gallery on the second floor, where the exhibition There and Back: The Pilgrimages of Livonians in Medieval Europe is open until early September. It presents to the public for the first time a large number of finds related to the pilgrimages of Livonians.

Once you have had a close look at the sights of Niguliste, head to the Adamson-Eric Museum in the immediate vicinity, where, in addition to interesting exhibitions, the friendly museum staff will also offer you a cup of coffee.

The Adamson-Eric Museum presents the development of Estonian painting and applied arts through a brilliant modernist artist

The permanent exhibition at the Adamson-Eric Museum in the Old Town of Tallinn gives an overview of the works of Adamson-Eric (1902–1968), one of the most versatile Estonian artists, vividly reflecting the development of Estonian painting and applied art over more than four decades.

The permanent exhibition features the versatility of the artist as both a sensitive painter and a prominent applied artist, highlighting his wealth of ideas and dynamic movement across different artistic disciplines.

Until the beginning of October, you can also see contemporary art at the museum: the exhibition (Un)Balanced invites you to reflect on how to keep balance in life and cope with change and difficulties.

The Adamson-Eric Museum, located on the romantic Lühike jalg street, is a special oasis of art in the middle of the Old Town of Tallinn. After exploring the exhibitions, relax in the museum’s cosy courtyard, where you can enjoy a coffee and a swing to refresh your spirit.