Exhibition project: Art in the Age of the Anthropocene

Date: 2020–2023
Location: 5th floor, Gallery of Contemporary Art

Welcome to the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans. Human impact on the planet has become so profound and ubiquitous that it has been compared to a global geophysical force. Scientists say that we have entered a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. Many potential markers distinguish this new epoch from the Holocene: from radioactive elements and carbon emissions to chicken bones and microplastics. In a wider sense, “Anthropocene” has become an umbrella term covering a range of global environmental challenges: climate change, world population growth, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, etc.

As the impacts of environmental and climate change are becoming increasingly severe, we need to speed up our search for ecological, technological, social and political solutions. These global challenges also pose a conceptual problem. How should we define the boundaries between the sphere of human activity and the environment, between nature and culture, between the human and the non-human in the age of the Anthropocene? How can we make sense of the vast and ever-increasing amount of data about the environment’s past, present and future? Can we envisage a future for our planet? And yet, just as the roots of the problems lie with humans, it is also to humans that we must turn for hope, albeit a very cautious hope, because only humans themselves can improve their relations with the environment.
Since the environment has become a major topic in the contemporary art world, it is equally important to ask how to address the Anthropocene in art and museums. What is the possibility of, and is there a need for art during an ecological crisis?

The Anthropocene exhibition at the Kumu Art Museum focuses on three issues: rethinking the Estonian nineteenth-century and later art history from an eco-critical perspective; cooperation between contemporary artists, museums and researchers; and sustainability in exhibition production and art museums.

Exhibition Art in the Age of the Anthropocene

The exhibition project will seek answers to a variety of questions:

  •  In what ways have art and visual culture influenced the representation and appropriation of the environment in Estonia?
  • What is the broader significance of the eco-critical reading of Estonian art history for global art and environmental history?
  • What is the role of contemporary art in the age of the Anthropocene? How can we build up a dialogue between the environment and science, between art history and environmental history?
  • Where should we draw the boundaries between art and (citizen) science and between art and activism? Do we need to draw these boundaries at all?
  • To what extent and how should museums change in the age of the Anthropocene? How can we make our museums more sustainable without restricting artists’ creative freedom?

We launched the exhibition project in 2020 with a deliberately long preparatory period so that we would have ample time to ask questions and seek answers, spark debates, try out new formats of action and cooperation, get to know each other, and work with art historians and contemporary artists. We have set up a diverse work group involving people with varied backgrounds, experiences, skills and expertise.


Curators: Cultural and environmental historians Linda Kaljundi (Estonian Academy of Arts and Tallinn University) and Ulrike Plath (Tallinn University), and the art historians Eha Komissarov (Kumu), Bart Pushaw and Tiiu Saadoja (Kumu)

Contemporary artists currently involved with the project: Evy Jokhova, Edith Karlson, Mari-Leen Kiipli, Laura Põld, Ivar Veermäe and Lou Sheppard

Exhibition space design: Laura Linsi and Roland Reemaa
Graphic design: Maria Muuk
Project coordinator: Triin Tulgiste

Collaboration partners


In 2022–2023, Kumu will be working on guidelines to good practices for sustainable exhibition management. For this, we will model the process of preparing and organising a sustainable exhibition based on our experience with Art in the Age of the Anthropocene. On the exhibition’s website, we will be publishing quarterly reports on the modelling process, with its successes and challenges, to contribute to a broader debate on the green transformation of the museum landscape.