Kumu is the headquarters of the Art Museum of Estonia, as well as the largest and most impressive exhibition venue in Estonia. The museum opened on 17 February 2006. In 2008 Kumu received the European Museum of the Year Award. This is a noteworthy international recognition of Kumu’s aspiration to become a truly contemporary art museum, which is not just dedicated to collection, conservation and exposition, but is a multifunctional space for active mental activity, from educational programmes for small children to discussions about the nature and meaning of art in the modern world.
The construction of Kumu stretched on for a long period and, during this time, the concept of the museum also changed: the building that had initially been planned as a national gallery became a museum that functions on two levels: collections of Estonian art starting from the early 18th century are displayed on the third and fourth floors, and a modern art gallery is on the fifth floor. Art pre-dating World War II is exhibited on the third floor; the fourth floor houses an exhibition of works from the period of Soviet occupation. On Kumu’s fifth floor, there are exhibitions of contemporary art from Estonia and abroad. The contemporary art gallery is not just an exhibition venue but also an idea laboratory – a place where creativity has the freedom to experiment.
The international dimension occupies a very important place in Kumu’s activities. Half the rotating exhibitions (a total of 11 or 12 larger exhibitions are organised annually in the four exhibition halls) deal with Estonian art, and the other half with international historical art and modern art.
It is Kumu’s ambition to constantly participate in the Estonian and international art worlds, to which a contribution is made by the 250-seat auditorium, with its film programme, performances, concerts, seminars and conferences, the educational centre, with programmes and courses directed at various age groups, and the library, with the widest selection of art literature in Estonia.
Kumu’s role is to be both an educational and entertainment centre, a booster of art and artistic life, a place for reflection that carries a message of stability, a place that creates and provides experiences, and a creator and interpreter of meanings.