You are here


The Estonian art scene is thriving. Broad-based exhibition activities at home and the activity of Estonian artists and curators internationally combine to form the face of our contemporary arts.

The art scene is comprised mainly of freelance artists as well as self-organised and private institutions; there are no central state organisations.  
There are also a large number of regional initiatives and providers of professional support services that have helped to create an art scene that is diverse and filled with opportunities. 
The development of arts policies is based on the document called the Fundamentals of Cultural Policy until 2020.   

Katja Novitskova "Approximation (Storm Time)" Exhibition view 2016, Courtesy of Greene Naftali, New York. Photo: Martha Fleming-Ives




The main source of financing for this field is the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. The 2017 budget of the Ministry of Culture includes a total of €596,797 for the arts, which is about 1/3 of the annual budget of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia’s Visual and Applied Arts Endowment.  

The Ministry of Culture provides partial financing for the activities of the Tallinn Art Hall, a historically significant exhibition venue, and the Center  for Contemporary Arts, Estonia, the sector’s information centre. As of 2017, the galleries of the Estonian Artists’ Association and the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia will also receive partial operating subsidies. Support is also provided for the organisation of the Estonian pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale and the development of an art residency in Narva (Estonian Academy of Arts Foundation). As of 2016, with grants from the ministry, the Estonian Artists’ Association is paying salaries for three years to eight art professionals. 

In addition, the creative associations in the field – Estonian Artists’ Association and the Estonian Society of Art Historians and Curators – mediate the creative grants and scholarships provided under the Creative Persons and Artistic Associations Act. In 2017, the amount appropriated for creative grants and scholarships is more than €200,000. The organisers of art events can also apply for grants for foreign activities during the ministry’s calls for applications under the programmes called Estonian Culture in the World and Transnational Cultural Cooperation Agreements.
The Ministry of Culture annually awards Edward Wiiralt Scholarships to art students, the funds for which are collected from the fees for the use of artworks.

The Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center  receives grants from Enterprise Estonia’s measures for sector-based development centres.   

Currently, the relative importance of the private sector in the arts field is relatively small.

In May 2015 Outset Estonia was launched to strengthen contemporary visual art production in Estonia by supporting new commissions and to further the acquisition of Estonian works by both international and Estonian public institutions. A key focus of Outset Estonia is promoting philanthropy and developing new patrons for contemporary art. 



In Estonia in 2016, a total of 717 art exhibitions were organised at 75 exhibition venues; 104 of the exhibitions also included foreign artists and curators. 

The largest exhibition venues besides the state art museums are the Tallinn Art Hall, Tartu Art House, Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (CAME), the galleries of the Estonian Artists’ Association, the city galleries in the county centres, and the galleries of the institutions of art education. 

The activities being organised in self-organised project spaces is also forcefully impacting the exhibition scene. Exhibitions are the central part of the activities in private galleries. Exhibitions of fine art are also organised by Estonian internet galleries. The growing number of residencies is having a noticeable impact on the organisation of exhibitions. 



Since 1997 Estonia has continually participated in the Venice Art Biennale. The Estonian pavilion is organised by the Center  for Contemporary Arts, Estonia, and in 2017, Katja Novitskova’s project If Only You Could See What I've Seen with Your Eyes (curator Kati Ilves) will be exhibited.

In 2016, Estonian artists were represented at 75 exhibitions or art events abroad.  A total of 90 artists or groups participated. The following artists stand out for the greatest number of appearances at foreign exhibitions: Merike Estna, Flo Kasearu, Marge Monko, Katja Novitskova, Jaanus Samma and Anu Vahtra.

Currently, fifteen Estonian artists are being actively represented by galleries operating in the international art market.


The Commissioning of Artworks Act

In 2011, the Commissioning of Artworks Act came into force in Estonia, in order to bring more art into the public space. 

The law establishes the principle that an indivisible part of the construction of a public building is the commissioning of artwork for that building. In this way, the public space is aesthetically enriched. Similar projects for commissioning works of art have been organised in the rest of the world for decades.


Art publications


The art quarterly called (in both Estonian and English) is published by the Foundation SA Kultuurileht. is the only Estonian-language art and visual culture magazine that covers the various aspects of the Estonian contemporary art scene and visual culture. Twice a year, the Estonian Institute publishes the English-language Estonian Art magazine.

Academic art history is advanced on the pages of the peer-reviewed journal called Studies on Art and Architecture.

Art reviews appear regularly in the cultural newspaper Sirp; art reviews and articles about art regularly appear in the the “Areen” section of the weekly Eesti Ekspress, in the national newspapers Postimees and Eesti Päevaleht, and in the independent Müürileht.

Art criticism is also fostered by various other initiatives including the Artishok blog.  

The only regular radio programme devoted to art is Kunstiministeerium on ERR’s Klassikaraadio. The TV shows OP on ETV and Rabarbar on ETV+ also feature art-related programming.



A higher art education can be acquired at the Estonian Academy of Arts, Tartu Art College, University of Tartu, Tallinn University (art didactics) and Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (MA in Arts Management). The Tartu Art School provides art-related vocational education.

In the field of extracurricular education, art schools along with music schools are the most numerous. In Estonia, there are 44 schools providing extracurricular education that includes art classes.


Main partners



Maria-Kristiina Soomre
Adviser (Arts)


Last updated: 2 February 2017