Finnish art has always been fascinating and endearing for how well it reflects Finnish society; from the harshness of pre-industrial daily life to modern political conflicts. These are some of the best galleries throughout the country for any art lovers where you can learn more about Finnish culture:
An obvious first stop for any art lovers is the National Gallery. This state-owned collection consists of over 35,000 paintings spread across three buildings. These are the magnificent Ateneum building in central Helsinki, the Kiasma gallery of contemporary art on Mannerheim Street, and the Sinebrychoff Museum containing European art. A visit to any of these galleries provides a chance to see work by some of the best national and international artists.
Finnish National Gallery, Kaivokatu 2, 00100, Helsinki, Finland, +358 0294 500 200
One of the key art centres in the south west is Turku Art Museum. It contains many famous works of Finnish artists such as Järnefelt’s Burning the Brushwood, Rissanen’s The Laying Out (a painting of a corpse being prepared for burial), and Gallen-Kallela’s The Defence of the Sanpo (a scene from the Kalevela epic poem). There are also rotating exhibits of more contemporary art, such as an exhibition of work by Finnish photographer Elina Brotherus, and an outdoor sculpture garden which includes a sculpture commemorating St. Petersburg becoming Turku’s sister city.
Turku Art Museum, Aurunkatu 26, 20100, Turku, Finland, +358 02 2627 100
The natural beauty of the North Karelia region has inspired a large number of artists for a relatively small population. The best place to see this art is in the Joensuu Art Museum. Located in an outstanding red and gold brick building, the museum holds pieces from all eras of history – with everything from Greek and Roman antiquities to recent experimental art installations. Many famous Finnish names can be seen in the museum, including Petri Ala-Maunus, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Wäinö Aaltonen and a slightly scary collection of ‘end of the world’ paintings by Oscar Parvianen. Of particular note is the collection of Arla Cederberg, which displays some of the best Finnish landscape paintings and a glimpse into what daily life was once like in Finland.
Joensuu Art Museum, Kirkkokatu 23, 80100, Joensuu, Finland, +358 13 3375388
Akseli Gallen-Kallela is one of the biggest names in Finnish art, particularly for the Kalevela illustrations mentioned above. This small gallery in the artist’s castle-like studio in Espoo displays both his work and those by recent contemporary artists. It is an ideal opportunity to learn more about one of Finland’s best artists by observing his work in his own studio.
For fans of contemporary art, you can’t get much better than this seaside museum in Sipoo. A former factory transformed into a gallery, Gumbostrand Konst & Form contains some stunning examples of modern art by Finland’s new generation of artists, such as the brass butterflies displayed outside the front entrance. Even some of the old factory paraphernalia is still used, such as the old crates serving as flower boxes. The site also contains one of the best reviewed bistros on Finland’s east coast.
A Tampere manor house converted into a modern art gallery, Haihara Art Centre has a regular summer programme of art exhibits, puppet shows and outdoor concerts. During Finland’s centenary year, there will be a temporary exhibition of children’s book illustrations from the past 100 years. The gallery also hosts many art workshops and classes, such as traditional dance.
The Espoo Museum of Modern Art, or EMMA, is the largest museum of modern and abstract art in Finland, fittingly located in one of Finland’s hippest cities. In the gallery are some classic paintings from Finland’s modernist painters as well as more recent works by the most highly acclaimed modern artists. There is even an upcoming exhibition of art donated by Nokia.
Exhibits at this gallery in Oulu include fine examples of both contemporary and classic art which examine nature and Finnish society. The building is a former leather factory situated in the former industrial district – which is now a sort-of museum district, with the science museum across the road. This makes it an ideal place for exploring past and future society through the medium of art.
Oulu Museum of Art, Kasarmintie 9, Oulu, Finland, +358 44 703 7471
Another museum combining old masters with new faces, the Amos Anderson Museum in central Helsinki is one of the city’s key locations for modern art, frequently collaborating with the National Gallery. Named after the Helsinki entrepreneur and arts patron, who owned the building that the museum now resides in, it is a private collection of more than 6,000 sculptures, paintings, drawings and photos from various donors. It is an ideal museum to spend an afternoon wandering and becoming familiar with Finnish art.
Finland’s most famous sculptor Wäinö Aaltonen continues his legacy in this Turku gallery. Its collection contains much of his body of work, including sculptures, drawings, sketches and paintings, his vast library of 8,000 volumes (the oldest dating from the 16th century), and rotating exhibits of modern art. It is another great location to look back at a great Finnish artist and look forward to the big artistic names of the future.
Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, Itäinen Rantakatu 38, Turku, Finland, +358 02 262 0850