The Best Contemporary Art Galleries And Museums In Turku, Finland
Located at the mouth of the beautiful Aura River, Turku is Finland’s oldest city and its former capital. In addition to its historical heritage, Turku also boasts an active contemporary art scene, with its own arts biennial held in 1998. From the riverside venues Titanik Galleria and the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art to the gallery spaces within the historic Vanha Suurtori, these are ten of the best places to see contemporary art in Turku.
B-Galleria is a trendy little non-profit art gallery established in 2005, overseen by the Nykykulttuuriyhdistys Suunnitelma B ry – a collective of young arts and culture fans and promoters based in Turku. The gallery was opened with the purpose of providing an approachable and affordable platform via which young, emerging artists can showcase their talent. B-Galleria gave the young, gifted photographer Aino Aksenja her first solo exhibition Land, a series of documentary-style photographs depicting the lives of young people in Finland’s Pohjanmaata region, and upcoming exhibitions include a show of works by punk-inspired comic artist and musician Jyrki Nissinen and Laura Kopio’s A Holy Superstar Gone Plastic – paintings that examine virility, masculinity and femininity using a Jesus-like subject as a conduit.
The Turku Art Museum, designed by renowned Finnish architect Professor Gustaf Nyström, was founded in 1904 and today has a collection of over 6,000 artworks, which includes many examples from what is known as the Golden Age of Finnish Art (1870 – 1920), and more contemporary works in surrealism and pop art. Amongst the museum collection’s most prominent contemporary works are pieces by painter Miikka Vaskola, sculptor Helena Hietanen and Harro Koskinen, the painter, sculptor and printmaker known for his social critique of popular culture. Forthcoming exhibitions for Turku Art Museum’s 2014 season include a showing of acclaimed Finnish photographer Esko Männiko’s work documenting Finland’s culture and people, and installation by Danish artistic duo Hesselholdt and Mejlvang and Swedish video artist Katarzyna Kozyra’s Summertale – a re-imagining of the Brothers’ Grimm fairytale Snow White.
Titanik Gallery exterior | Courtesy of Titanik Gallery
Situated on the banks of the scenic River Aura is Titanik Galleria – the largest contemporary art gallery in the city of Turku. The gallery was founded in 1988 by the artists’ association Arte, which was established in 1960 by a group of Turku-based creatives. Today, the gallery hosts a number of exhibitions each year alongside an international artist residency program, while its proclivity for introducing unknown talents and unconventional art has established Titanik as a fixture or Turku’s alternative art scene. Since 2010, Titanik has organized exhibitions around specific themes, one of the latest being sound art which included Hong Kong-born audio-visual artist Jeanie-Aprille Tang’s Amma Ateria, an exploration of natural and synthetic sound. Past exhibitions have also included Finnish mixed media artist Jouna Karsi’s miniature scale sculptures of landscapes and buildings.
The elephant outside the museum | Discovering Finland / Flickr
Established in 1995 and overseen by the Matti Koivurinta Foundation, Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova is one of Turku’s most unique attractions where visitors can explore Finland’s medieval past alongside stimulating works of contemporary art. The museum’s contemporary art section – Ars Nova – resides on the second floor of the palatial Villa von Rettig, built in 1928, and hosts exhibitions from the Matti Koivurinta Foundation’s collection which includes works from international contemporary greats like Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and David Hockney, alongside the Finnish artists Jan-Erik Andersson, who works with sculpture and installations, and painter Matti Kujasalo. This space also includes the Takkahuone gallery which hosts four temporary exhibitions by contemporary artists each year and is currently exhibiting Warsaw-born Swedish video artist and photographer Magdalena Dziurlikowska’s My Secret Life which examines the multiple and conflicting social roles.
Auran Galleria is a privately owned contemporary art gallery located in central Turku. The airy, spacious and minimalist gallery holds an average of around 16 exhibitions each year, with a particular focus on works of art created in the mediums of painting and sculpture. Auran Galleria represents and exhibits a number of talented contemporary Scandinavian artists. These artists have recently included Turku-born Marko Lampisuo, a versatile visual artist who works across the mediums of graphic, video and performance art and explores themes of the environment and the human condition, and Helsinki-based sculptor Merja Winqvist who creates natural-seeming sculptures from man-made materials.
The Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art is located within a striking modernist building overlooking the Aura River that was formally opened in September 1967. The museum was named after the prominent Finnish artist and Sculptor Wäinö Aaltonen, whose sculptures, including the Turun Lilja and Paavo Nurmi statues, dot the city of Turku, and who, alongside his wife and son Irma and Matti Aaltonen, was active in the planning and design of the museum before his death in 1966. Alongside a number of Aaltonen’s drawings, paintings and sculptures on permanent display, the museum also hosts a program of more recent, experimental exhibitions by Finnish artists which has included photographer Miina Savolainen, whose work explores social engagement, ceramic sculptor Kim Simonsson’s Manga-inspired figures and the painter and printmaker Jan Kenneth Weckman.
When visiting the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, why not stop by the Photographic Centre Peri, the gallery space of Turku’s Photographic Centre, an open meeting place for Finnish and international photography that is located within the museum? The Peri gallery shows around ten exhibitions each year lasting approximately four weeks each, and its 102-square-meter space, divided into two by a partial wall, is also suitable for exhibiting installations and video art alongside photography. Previous events at the gallery have included Jere Aalto’s first solo exhibition Me Me Land, a series of conceptual faceless human figures, and Ilkka Saastamoinen’s documentary-style photography of her hometown Heinola undergoing changes brought about by increasing youth unemployment. Forthcoming exhibitions will include Kainuu – a collective photography project exploring the representation and relevance of Finnish mythology in a modern and globalized Finland.
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The Vanha Suurtori Galleriat is a group of art galleries situated in Turku’s Vanha Suurtori (or ‘Old Great Square’) – the city’s historical medieval market square, which dates back to the 13th century and is an important cultural hub of Turku. Overseen by the Museum Center of Turku, the gallery group includes four different gallery spaces in total – Galleria Bernissa, Vanhan Raaithuoneen Galleriassa, Ullakkogalleriassa and Brinkkalan Galleriassa. Among the artists recently on display at these galleries were Kristiina Mäenpää’s Kahden Valissä, which explored gender identity; Juha Karki’s colorful and abstract paintings and sculptures; the meditative photographic, audio and video base installations of Stefanel Oey, and painter Ida Sandberg’s Karvapeitetarinoita, a series of oil paintings depicting human subjects metamorphosing into animals.
Galleria Joella is the resident art gallery of the Turku Printmakers Association – a collective of print-based artists of around 100 members that was formed in 1933 with the purpose of promoting the graphic arts to the public. Located close to the riverside, the gallery was established in 1986 and hosts approximately 16 exhibitions each year that center on not only print-based works but also a wide range of other Finnish and European visual arts, alongside a collection of buyable works created by members of the Turku Printmakers Association. Artists recently exhibited by Galleria Joella include Lithuanian graphic artist Egle Vertelkaite and Finnish artist Reijo Mörö’s ephemeral depictions of landscapes and nature.