The General Principles of Cultural Policy up to 2020 (see chapter 1.1) state that:
- the internationalisation of Estonian art life is considered important by the state. Artists, curators and critics should take an active part in the world’s art life and international exhibitions and art projects should be organised in Estonia. With its national pavilion, Estonia is taking part at the Venice Biennale, with even more focus than before on cooperation projects with other countries;
- state facilitates the mobility of art professionals and their participation in international residency programmes. Art residency programmes operating in Estonia have always been significant in diversifying local art life and networking;
- state supports the activities of exhibition venues in order to create opportunities all over Estonia for people to appreciate the fine arts and for artists to show their work to a wide audience;
- in addition to creative individuals and agents, technical experts of art production and exhibition organisers are valued highly and their professional training and in-service training is funded by the state;
- the role of state-owned art museums is to collect and store mainly artworks related to Estonia and to research, mediate, present, popularise, and exhibit both Estonian and world art to Estonian residents and visitors;
- the Estonian art market is professional, with galleries belonging to international networks, there is joint marketing between the galleries, and the state is creating possibilities for Estonian artists to conquer foreign markets;
- with the application of the Commissioning of Artworks Act, the state supports enriching the public space with artworks, involving specialists in the field in the process of commissioning artworks. Amendments will be made to the said act to specify what types of artwork can be commissioned on the basis of the act and how to ensure a high artistic level of the commissioned works.
The art scene is comprised mainly of freelance artists as well as self-organised and private institutions; there are no central state organisations.
The main source of financing for this field is the Cultural Endowment of Estonia (visual and applied arts sub-endowment), the Ministry of Culture finances a total of about one third of the annual grants from the Cultural Endowment.
The Ministry of Culture provides partial financing for the activities of the Tallinn Art Hall (a historically significant exhibition venue in the heart of the city) and the Centre for Contemporary Arts Estonia (the sector’s information centre). The galleries of the Estonian Artists’ Association and the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia 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 (established by Estonian Academy of Arts).
Since 2016, with grants from the Ministry, the Estonian Artists’ Association is paying three-year wages to art professionals, based on a public competition. The association receives funds for paying thirteen wages since 2020. The amount of one wage is equal to of the average monthly salary year of the previous year including all taxes. The differences of the wage compared to a grant for creative work, apart from its long-term nature, are the accompanying social security taxes and greater stability arising from them. The wages for creative persons will be implemented in fields with a large number of creative persons engaged in liberal professions: literature and art. The creative processes of the named fields are not as widely supported by the state through institutional supports. The artists’ wage does not replace the creative person’s support paid based on the Creative Persons and Artistic Associations Act or grants paid by Cultural Endowment.
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. 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 largest exhibition venues besides the state art museums are the Tallinn Art Hall, Tartu Art House, Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia, 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 are 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, providing an opportunity for the emergence and development of collaborations and synergies between artists.
The Ministry of Culture annually awards Edward Wiiralt Scholarships to art students, with funds collected from the fees for the use of artworks.