In 1993–1994, an open international architectural competition was held, in which architects from ten countries (Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Germany and the USA) took part. The competition was organised by the government of the Republic of Estonia, the Art Museum of Estonia and the Estonian Union of Architects. The winner of the international architectural competition to design the building (1993–1994) was the Finnish architect Pekka Vapaavuori. In February 1999 a contract between the AME and Vapaavuori was signed, which launched practical activities for the building of the museum. Construction started in 2002. The Kumu Art Museum was opened to the visitors in February 2006.
The new museum site is located on four hectares in Tallinn, on the limestone bank of Lasnamägi next to Kadriorg Park. The office of the President of the Republic of Estonia and Kadriorg Palace, which is a part of the Art Museum, lie in the vicinity of the future Art Museum. The building has seven floors, including technical floors, and the total area is 23 900 m². In 2004 the new museum got its name – Kumu – in an open competition.
The Kumu (KUnstiMUuseum) Art Museum is a modern multifunctional art building, which contains exhibition halls, a lecture hall offering diverse facilities, and an educational centre for young visitors and for art lovers.
Kumu is meant for different people – for those who are already well-versed in art and for those who simply wish to spend their time in a congenial environment. Kumu welcomes children and families and, most importantly, Kumu serves as a laboratory where diverse ideas emerge and develop. These ideas examine contemporary visual culture and its function in society.
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. Untill 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. 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, Kristjan Raud House 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.
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