About the Programme


The world around us is ever more visual. Art, photography, film, as well as print media, advertising, television and the internet – all these fields create and use pictures and images to various ends. Images can be a source for aesthetic pleasure or regarded as historic documents; they can convey information or manipulate us. Some images do it all at once. A similar significance is characteristic of the spaces and material environments that surround us, and affect and model our everyday lives.

The Art History and Visual Culture speciality instructs students to look critically at and analyse the visual world and spatial environment. Art history and theory help us to understand and appreciate art, along with the society and values that created it. The study of art, architecture and design gives us a framework for understanding both the past and the future, and provides us with a wider perspective for independent critical thinking.

The Institute of Art History and Visual Culture is the only institution teaching art history in Estonia at all three levels of higher education and with such a broad temporal range.


The Art History speciality teaches students to see critically, and to analyse the historical  as well as pictorial world and spatial environment that surround us.


The Institute of Art History teaches art history against a background of cultural theory and social history. The curriculum provides a broad-based education in the humanities.


The assignment of the Institute of Art History at the Academy is to prepare specialists in art history, and to teach aesthetics and general subjects related to the humanities to the students of art, design and architecture. The Institute’s students maintain close contact with the students studying the various other art disciplines, and, early on, develop a good understanding of contemporary art. In order to expand the choice of subjects related to the humanities, the Institute cooperates closely with the Institutes of Humanities and History at Tallinn University.
Visiting faculty members are regularly invited to the Institute from abroad. Among others, the following have taught electives at the Institute: Prof Keith Moxey (Barnard College, Columbia University) and Prof Michael Anne Holly (Clark Art Institute); Prof Matthew Rampley (University of Birmingham); Prof James Elkins (Chicago Art Institute); Prof Beat Wyss (Karlsruhe); Prof Altti Kuusamo (University of Turku) and Dr Tutta Palin (University of Turku).


The research topics of the Institute’s professors and research fellows include the historiography of art history, the early modern and modern period, Soviet art, the treatment of architecture and material culture, as well as art semiotics, environmental aesthetics and space theories.
Currently, the following collective research projects are under way:
Historicizing art: Knowledge production in art history in Estonia amidst changing ideologies and disciplinary developments

• Readdressing practices and theories of experimentation in the 20th- and 21st-century Estonian visual and spatial culture

• the completion of the six-volume History of Estonian Art. 

The Institute of Art History has carried out many international conferences and seminars, including a series of conferences dedicated to Sten Karling (publications: Krista Kodres, Piret Lindpere, Eva Näripea (eds.), The Problem Of Classical Ideal, EAA 2003; Krista Kodres (ed.), Art and the Church: Religious Art and Architecture in the Baltic Region in the 13th-18th Centuries, EKA 2008; Art and Ritual, 2011 (being published); the conference Constructed Happiness. Domestic Environment in the Cold War Era (publication: Mart Kalm, Ingrid Ruudi (eds.), Constructed Happiness. Domestic Environment in the Cold War Era, EKA 2005); and has been the co-organiser of the series of conferences and publications called Koht ja Paik I-VII (ed. Virve Sarapik).
The Institute of Art History partnered with the Clark Art Institute to organise the series of seminars entitled Unfolding Narratives: Art Histories in East-Central Europe, 2010-2011.