A New Multi-Purpose Art Center in Estonia Will Open in a Former Russian Tsarist Submarine Warehouse

The art center will host residencies, art fairs, talks, and more.

The Kai Art Center.
The Kai Art Center.

A new cultural hub in Estonia opens this week inside a 100-year-old submarine warehouse.

The Kai Art Center takes over the massive heritage site on the waterfront of the capital city of Tallinn and will host exhibitions, classes, events, and the city’s annual art fair. The multi-purpose space will also host residencies and workshops. It opens to the public this Friday, September 20.

Sprawled across the former industrial building’s 4,800 square feet of space will be an 100-seat auditorium, an education center, and working spaces for local arts organizations.

The Kai Art Center’s unique architecture includes 20 foot tall ceilings and a concrete roof, which will offer opportunities for artists to spread out and create large-scale installations.

The project is spearheaded by the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center, which has offered educational programs and residencies for contemporary art professionals since 2012.

“Kai is a new type of contemporary art center in Tallinn,” says Karin Laansoo, the center’s director. “In an increasingly active art scene, the center’s support of grass-roots organizations and [its] purpose-built exhibition space is in demand.”

Although the city is already home to the Tallinn Art Hall and the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia, neither is intended to serve as a pop-up space for other, smaller organizations, as the Kai Art Center is. “Kai is driven by the vision of bringing together local synergies and international collaboration,” Laansoo says.

The venue also holds a space where residency candidates can stay for the duration of their time in Tallinn. Tenants will also have opportunities to seek legal advice, communications support, and help with grant proposals. Two large rooms are also able for private meetings and seminars.

The opening group exhibition, titled “Let the field of your attention… soften and spread out” (September 21 through December 1) is curated by Hanna Laura Kaljo and includes Danish artist Marie Kølbæk Iversen, Finnish artist Pia Lindman, and Italian artist Andrea Magnani, among others. The show explores approaches to healing, and also includes meditation and deep-listening exercises and presentations of traditional medicinal knowledge.

The building was originally a submarine plant that served the Russian Tsarist navy. Until last year, and after Estonia became an independent nation in 1918, it used used as a ship repair and building facility.

The Foto Tallinn art fair will take place at the Kai Art Center from September 27 to 29 this year. The fair is organized by the Estonian Union of Photography Artists and is part of the Tallinn Photomonth art biennial.


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