Finland’s capital city of Helsinki is home to a varied and exciting contemporary arts community and centuries worth of classic art. Both works by international artists and home-grown talents can be found throughout the city, making it the perfect destination for art lovers looking to learn more about the Finnish art world. Here are ten of the best galleries for both contemporary and classic art that Helsinki has to offer.
One of Helsinki’s foremost contemporary art spaces, Galerie Anhava was founded in 1991 and has since established itself as a leading gallery on the international art scene, regularly participating in art fairs, including Art Basel, Madrid’s ARCO, and Art Forum Berlin. The gallery exhibits all media of contemporary art, from painting to photography and from sculpture to video art, but with a particular emphasis on contemporary Finnish and Nordic conceptual artists. Galerie Anhava gave the internationally acclaimed Finnish artist Antti Laitinen – whose work is a mix of performance and installation documented in photos and videos – his first retrospective and has exhibited works by Finnish painter Jorma Hautala, one of the country’s most prominent artists of the Concrete style.
Kiasma, the contemporary art wing of the Finnish National Gallery, holds over 8000 works in its collection and showcases the best of Finnish and Nordic artwork in a modern, light-filled building. 2018’s There and Back Again exhibit collects together works by 26 artists from the Baltic regions to reflect their shared history, culture, and arts. Other exhibits, past and present, include the candidates for the Ars Fennica Award, The Aalto Natives showcase, which was shown at the 2017 Venice Biennale, and the absurdist paintings of English artist Grayson Perry. On top of this, Kiasma has a dedicated programme for children, and even a ‘colour workshop’ for babies under one year of age.
Finnish Museum of Photography
The Centre of Finnish Photography founded in 1969 is the oldest photography museum in Europe and contains a huge archive of over two million photos, dating back to the 19th century, and provides an exhibition space for contemporary photographers. The 2018 exhibition of everyday life in Finland includes photos from the 1950s to today, showing how daily life in the country has evolved and changed in the past few decades. The works of photographer Heidi Piiroinen show the struggles of a poor Romanian family forced to become beggars.
Kaapelitehdas, Tallberginkatu 1 G, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 6866 3621
The Korjaamo Galleria was founded in 2004 as part of the Korjaamo Culture Factory, which is one of the largest centres for the arts in the Nordic region and hosts musical and theatrical events. The gallery presents exhibitions that change on a monthly basis and centres around inspiring works of contemporary art by artists from Finland and overseas who work in various fields and disciplines. These artists include the young, talented painter Sami Havia, a graduate of Helsinki’s Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, who works within the disciplines of abstract Expressionism and intuitive painting, and Mikko Rikala, a mesmerizing photographer.
Annantalo is the only gallery in Helsinki dedicated solely to workshops, performances, and exhibits for children and young adults, in order to improve Finland’s arts education from a young age. The centre holds arts classes in Finnish and Swedish, weekend events and shows for families, VR games, and a book café for the parents. Working with children and families in the local community have helped introduce more street art in Helsinki, motivate young artists, and provide free arts education for schools. It is a great place to take children and get them engaged in the arts, rather than dragging them through a gallery against their will.
HAM stands for Helsinki Art Museum and seeks to collect and exhibit works by all the artists of Helsinki and display them across the city. They also host exhibits at their Tennis Palace gallery space next to the Kamppi shopping centre. In addition to the 3500 public sculptures and works of street art throughout Helsinki and its suburbs, the Tennis Palace holds rotating exhibits plus regular events and art workshops. Exhibits include a celebration of Helsinki’s graffiti scene and the works of Tove Jansson, Finland’s most beloved artist who primarily lived and worked in Helsinki.
Valokuvagalleria Hippolyte, one of Helsinki’s leading galleries dedicated to contemporary photography, was founded in 1978 to address the lack of venues exhibiting and promoting Finnish photography. The gallery, which has presented more than 200 exhibitions over the course of its operations, is overseen by the Union of Artist Photographers in Finland, which also organizes the Helsinki Photography Biennial. Valokuvagalleria Hippolyte has presented shows by talents such as Finnish artist Juha Arvid Helminen, whose ominous portrait photography explores how uniforms – whether political, religious or otherwise – can create boundaries and difference, and the Norwegian artist Morten Torgersrud, whose photography documents the changing landscapes of northern Finland, Sweden, Norway, and northwestern Russia.
Valokuvagalleria Hippolyte, Yrjönkatu 8-10, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 612 3344
Ateneum Art Museum
No tour of Finnish art is complete without a visit to the main building of the Finnish National Gallery, which is located in one of Helsinki’s most beautiful buildings and contains thousands of the best works by Finnish artists throughout history. Some of the most famous works by artists including Akseli Gallen-Kallela, the von Wright brothers, and Alvar Aalto, as well as international artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin can be found in the collection. Even quirky contemporary art, such as Kari Korhonen’s Donald Duck pictures, are celebrated for their role in Finnish pop culture.
Ateneum Art Museum, Kaivokatu 2, Helsinki, Finland, +358 294 500 401
A tiny gallery in a classic, yellow wooden building off the Senate Square, Okra exhibits and sells the best of Helsinki’s arts, crafts, and design, which Finland is so well known for. The artists work with a range of materials, including wood, glass, ceramics, felt, textiles, and recycled materials, to create delightful and unique works of art which are good enough to sell. It is one of the best places in the city to experience Helsinki’s craft scene and find a souvenir more special than those at the usual tourist shops.
Okra, Aleksanterinkatu 26, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 624 250
Since its opening in 1978, Galleria Bronda has held over 400 exhibitions of Finland’s most innovative and inspiring contemporary art, which change every four weeks. Recent exhibits have included the nature-inspired works of Pekka Parviainen, the wonderfully bleak paintings of Kristina Isaksson, and the colourful artwork of Ernst Mether-Borgström.
Galleria Bronda, Annankatu 16, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 611426