Finland’s capital city Helsinki is home to a varied and exciting contemporary arts community. While some of the city’s galleries exhibit works of art by international artists, Helsinki is geared towards promoting its own home-grown talents, making it the perfect destination for art lovers looking to learn more about Finnish contemporary art. Here are ten of the best independent galleries and exhibition spaces 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 mediums 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 concretist style.
Galerie Anhava, Sanomatalo, Mannerheiminaukio 3, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 669 989
Run by founder and director Kaj Forsblom and his son Frej, Galerie Forsblom was established in 1977 and was the first contemporary art space to open in Finland. It moved to its current premises in central Helsinki in 2011. Featuring two exhibition spaces with around 20 exhibitions a year, Forsblom showcases a mixture of works by international contemporary artists and established and up-and-coming Finnish creatives. Artists that Galerie Forsblom has exhibited in the past include Scottish Finland-based visual artist Charles Sandison, who creates installations by projecting computer generated videos and won Finland’s highly regarded Ars Fennica Art Award in 2010, and acclaimed Helsinki-based sculpture and installation artist Kaarina Kaikkonen, who has represented her country at several international art fairs including the 2010 Liverpool Biennial.
Galerie Forsblom, Lönnrotinkatu 5, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 680 3700
Established in 2012, Helsinki Contemporary was created following a re-fashioning of the popular Gallery Kalhama and Piippo Contemporary, complete with a new name and new artistic direction. Helsinki Contemporary focuses on collaborating with both established artists and emerging talents whose artwork demonstrates a discourse between the society in which it inhabits and the spaces in which it is presented. In its first year of operation under its new name, the gallery exhibited artists including Finnish painter Maiju Salmenkivi and her chaotically colorful canvasses and Ville Löppönen’s beautiful yet brooding paintings which combine pop culture references with high art traditions. With one finger always on the pulse of the contemporary art scene, Helsinki Contemporary is a must-see for any art enthusiast in the city.
Helsinki Contemporary, Bulevardi 10, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 278 5301
Focusing on exhibiting and boosting the profile of both well-known mid-career artists and promising, young Finnish talents, Galleria Heino was founded in 2002 and is overseen by director Rauli Heino. Based in the heart of Helsinki, the gallery presents a range of group shows and solo exhibitions in many contemporary mediums including painting, drawing, sculpture, and the moving image. It regularly takes part in renowned art fairs across the world to further its artists. Recently exhibited artists include Tampere-based photographer Marja Pirilä, whose work is included in the collections of the Finnish Museum of Photography and who employs a camera obscura to project natural outdoor scenes onto interior spaces to create her stunning images, and Helsinki-based painter and cartoonist Bo Haglund who creates abstract and eerily apocalyptic canvasses.
Galleria Heino, Uudenmaankatu 16 – 20, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 672 678
Myymälä2 is a non-profit, artist-run alternative space that was established in 2003 with the mission of providing an affordable and easily accessible way for lesser-known artists to exhibit their works. The gallery, which is located in a basement space in the stylish Punavuori neighborhood, presents exhibitions that focus primarily on up-and-coming home-grown talents demonstrating the diversity of Finland’s contemporary art scene. Recently, the gallery gave artist Sini Kelaranta – who painstakingly handcrafts cross-stitched works based on the saturated imagery of modern media – her first solo exhibition and also presented photographer Iina Esko’s show Undays – a series of portraits taken of people after a sleepless night of revelry.
Myymälä2, Uudenmaankatu 23F, Helsinki, Finland, +358 400 101 407
Part of the Korjaamo Culture Factory, which is one of the largest centers for the arts in the Nordic region and hosts musical and theatrical events, the Korjaamo Galleria was founded in in 2004. The gallery presents exhibitions that change on a monthly basis and centers upon inspiring works of contemporary art by artists from Finland and overseas who work in various fields and disciplines. Currently, Korjaamo Galleria is focusing on building its repertoire of Finnish, Nordic, and Baltic artists, promoting them both within Finland and internationally. These artists include the young, talented painter Sami Havia, a recent 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.
Korjaamo Galleria, Kulttuuritehdas Korjaamo, Töölönkatu 51A-B, Helsinki, Finland, +358 20 741 7000
Founded in 2000, Galleria Ama originally called the neighboring city of Turku its home before it moved to a larger and more flexible space in the center of Helsinki in 2007. The gallery focuses mainly on contemporary Finnish painters but also exhibits artists who work with photography, installation, and sculpture. It has also been known to introduce artists from outside Finland, as far afield as Australia, to the country’s contemporary art scene. Among the artists currently represented by Galleria Ama are the Finnish talents Thomas Nyqvist, who paints darkly melancholic urban landscapes and was a candidate for the Ars Fennica Art Award in 2003, and sculptor Kaisaleena Halinen, who was a 2013 William Thuring Prize winner, which is awarded to accomplished mid-career artists by the Finnish Art Society.
Galleria Ama, Rikhardinkatu 1, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 278 5057
Overseen by the Pro Artibus Foundation, an independent cultural organization established to promote the visual arts in the Swedish-speaking regions of Finland, Sinne exhibits works by Finnish and international artists, with a particular focus on young, emerging artists who produce experimental artworks. Sinne’s main mission is to nurture future artistic talents while providing a space in which art can be discussed and debated. The gallery presents a program of group shows and individual exhibitions which have recently included Suomen Paviljonki, or The Finnish Pavilion, a tongue-in-cheek video from Finnish artists Kimmo Modig and Jaakko Pallasvuo looking at Finland’s relationship with the international art world, and sculptural and installation artist Sari Palosaari’s Visibility, a series of sculptures inspired by cityscapes and urban life.
Sinne, Iso Roobertinkatu 16, Helsinki, Finland, +358 45 883 3716
Valokuvagalleria Hippolyte, one of Helsinki’s leading galleries dedicated to contemporary photography, was founded in 1978 to address the near-absence 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 recently 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 and Norway and northwestern Russia.
Valokuvagalleria Hippolyte, Yrjönkatu 8 – 10, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 612 3344
Forum Box is an artist-run cooperative that was originally conceived of in 1996 by the late, great sculptor Kain Tapper – one of Finland’s best-known artists – as a means of enriching the country’s cultural life. The gallery officially opened its doors in 1999 in a space designed by esteemed Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa that formerly acted as a cold storage room, and today operates an inclusive policy that allows art of all forms to be exhibited by both Finnish and international artists at any stage in their career. In the past year, Forum Box has exhibited works by talents such as Baghdad-born, Helsinki-based multimedia artist Adel Abidin, whose work examines identity, politics, and power relations, and British-Finnish video artist Emilia Ukkonen, whose art often incorporates a wry look at contemporary culture.
Forum Box, Ruoholahdenranta 3A, Helsinki, Finland, +358 96 855 0080