Open Wed-Sun 11.00-18.00 / 17 Lai Street Tallinn, 10133 Estonia


PRESS RELEASE 20.05.2013





The Art Products Factory (which had ARS added to the name in 1975) is in many respects an interesting phenomenon in the context of Estonian design, in terms of the creation, of its position in discussions about improving the everyday environment, and where applied art had a central role in instigating change and thirdly, the factory’s position between art and industry, and applied art and design. Art Products Factories were founded both in Tallinn and Tartu but similar organisations were existent also elsewhere in the Soviet Union. The current exhibition is focusing mainly on the Tallinn Factory as the larger and more influencial one but introducing also the Tartu’s case. The factory operated under the umbrella of the Artists Association, which in turn was a branch of the USSR Artists Association. Between the Artists Association and the factory, there was the ESSR Art Fund, which ran the financial and managerial side of the association and in a its own way was responsible for marketing their work.


The Art Products Factory in Tallinn was established immediately after the Second World War, when many applied art businesses of the 1920s and 30s were nationalised and merged under the ESSR Centre for Applied Art.. These workshops became the foundation for the new model of production, and often the same premises, skills, equipment and people were used. In 1958, in accordance with the statutes the factory, an ambitious enterprise existed under a single umbrella organisation with a very broad field of activity. The factory had to provide artists with suitable conditions for working, market their work and present product samples to industry for mass production. The work produced by the factory was sold in special shops, which were known as salons. By the 1980s there were sales rooms in Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, and Kohtla- Järve. There also was a permanent display of production at the main building 154 Pärnu Rd. From the mid-1960s, when the building was completed, here were situated most of Tallinn workshops that used to be in different premises all over the city before.


The Art Products Factory was divided according to media and materials into different studios. After some reorganisation and name changes, in 1968 there were six studios – textiles, decorative weaving, fine metal, ceramics, leather and decoration – each of which had various specific departments. Each studio had a manager and an artistic director. The employees of the Art Products Factory were mostly artists, who designed the products, and a large team of technicians. Designs were assessed by the factory’s artistic board.


The factory was considered to be an exemplary model for how a well-designed object of applied art can become a product. The often emphasised need for balance between artistic quality and choice of products, which was seen as the role of the industrial designer, seemed to work well here. Over the years, the products had a good reputation and there was no shortage of buyers.


The work of the factory continued in many directions, with items produced in series being offered to shops, they satisfied orders for organisations, as well as artists. High fees and large important commissions, as well as well-equipped studios, meant that the factory was popular among artists. Consequently, a large number of Estonian artists were, to a greater or lesser extent, connected with work produced by the factory.
The Art Products Factory continued to operate as an integrated organisation until 1992, when the ARS Ltd was created and the studios separated into independent companies.


The exhibition is compiled by: Helen Adamson, Merike Alber, Airi Ligi, Kai Lobjakas, Anne Tiivel
Exhibition design by: Kristi Paap, Ketli Tiitsar
Graphical design: Tuuli Aule
Additional information: Kai Lobjakas,

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