Kumu views its role as being an initiator of a social and cultural debate both in connection with art historical expositions and events in the gallery of contemporary art, which has become an incubator for new ideas for domestic and foreign artists. Besides preservation, important tasks of the museum are to show the works of art in its collections, to initiate debates on their meaning and to shape various interpretative environments. In the fifteen years before Kumu was opened, people did not have constant access to the classics of Estonian art and the permanent display of Soviet art only became possible once Kumu opened. Our expositions need to speak to different audiences: to the well-versed and the relatively unknowing, the old and the young, local and foreign visitors, schoolchildren and their teachers, art lovers and art experts.
In 2008, the Kumu Art Museum received the European Museum of the Year Award from the European Museum Forum.
In the spring of 2004, a public naming contest for the museum was announced. The winner was Kumu, which is a portmanteau of the Estonian words kunst and muuseum, i.e. art and museum. The word kumu in Estonian means a response, hearsay or rumour and it was quickly adopted by people as the name of the museum.
Each year on 17 February we celebrate the opening of Kumu to the public, which means that Kumu has a birthday on that day and all visitors are welcome!