Helsinki Art Museum
The Helsinki City Art Museum is one of the largest art museums in Finland and the Nordic countries. It functions as interpreter of the history of the visual arts and of new trends in visual culture. The ideals that guide the work of the Art Museum are cultural, material and operational innovation management in its own field, readiness to renew, self-criticism, the promotion of the visual arts as socially relevant and the support of creative endeavour. The core function of the Art Museum is to create opportunities for meaningful encounters between people and the visual arts. The Museum’s vision is of a Finland where art and culture create a sense of existence and visual literacy is a shared resource. The Art Museum’s core function, that is, its mission, vision and values, are derived from the aims laid out in the City of Helsinki’s vision and strategy.
The Art Museum organises several temporary exhibitions each year in collaboration with artists and international art institutions. Staging exhibitions is a centralised activity. The collections of the Art Museum, by contrast, are spread widely around the city in public spaces and in parks and streets.
Helsinki City Art Museum as an organisation
The Helsinki City Art Museum has exhibition space in the Tennis Palace (Tennispalatsi) and in the Meilahti Museum. In addition to holding exhibitions, the Museum operates as the regional art museum for Uusimaa, maintains the Kluuvi Gallery and looks after and augments the City of Helsinki’s art collections. These collections also include the city’s public works of art.
The Museum’s exhibitions are mostly temporary. In its exhibition policy, the Museum is not tied down to any historical or geographical criteria. The Museum is equally free to engage with contemporary art, popular culture or traditional fine arts. The exhibition programme is typically international, and the Museum works with partners from around the world, from Latin America and North America to Asia and Europe. Its own collections are widely used in its exhibitions. The Kluuvi Gallery is focused on exhibitions of contemporary Finnish art.
The Tennis Palace
The Tennis Palace’s exhibition spaces were opened to the public in the spring of 1999. In the Tennis Palace, the Museum can serve the public right in the heart of Helsinki and promote a concentration of art in the city centre. The audience brought to the Tennis Palace, through its cinemas, cafés and restaurants, creates a natural opportunity to expand the Museum’s visitor base and offers new starting points for designing exhibitions. Living side by side with the neighbouring Museum of Cultures is a rare opportunity, even by international standards, both for the audience and the Museum itself.
Meilahti’s Museum building is located near the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum, in the heart of old parkland. The building was completed in 1976. Alongside temporary exhibitions, Meilahti’s programme has an emphasis on exhibitions built around the Museum’s own collections and their themes.
The Kluuvi Gallery
The Kluuvi Gallery is known for its exhibitions of contemporary visual arts. The Gallery aims to offer opportunities for the kinds of exhibition projects that would be difficult to realise elsewhere in Helsinki.
Museum education is about diverse ways of taking account of the Art Museum’s audiences. It offers museum visitors information about the exhibitions via text and guides as well as through activities and experiences. The objective is to challenge visitors to come up with their own interpretations of the art and to think about its meanings. Workshop activities are at the core of education. There are workshop spaces fitted with a range of resources in the immediate vicinity of both the Tennis Palace and Meilahti exhibition spaces. They allow learning through personal active engagement to become part of people’s exploration of art. Usually museum education is thought of as being for children and young people, but it can equally be oriented towards other age groups; the aim is lifelong learning for everyone. Museum education is also aimed at improving the accessibility of the Museum so that moving around, seeing, hearing and acquiring information and experience is as easy and unhindered as possible for everyone, both in the Tennis Palace and Meilahti exhibition spaces.
The Art Museum has extensive and significant collections comprising over 8 800 works. The bulk of the collection is made up of 20th and 21st century Finnish art, but international art and older masterpieces are also included. The collections are augmented both through the Museum’s own annual acquisitions and through bequests.
The core collections include several donated collections of which the most significant are those of Katarina and Leonard Bäcksbacka, Gösta Becker, Iris Roos-Hasselblatt, Elsa Arokallio, Aune Lindeberg, Katriina Salmela-Hasan and David Hasan, Aune and Elias Laaksonen as well as Martta and Reino Sysi.
Helsinki has hundreds of public artworks, monuments and commemorative plaques. About 200 public sculptures belong to the collections of the Helsinki City Art Museum. In addition to works in public spaces such as parks and squares, the collections include works acquired for buildings owned by the city. The Museum also organises and oversees projects relating to the acquisition, realisation and exhibition of new public art annually. The Art Museum is responsible for the condition and maintenance of the public artworks and for inventorying them.
Regional art museum activity
Helsinki’s City Art Museum became Uusimaa’s regional art museum in 1993. The role of regional art museums is to promote their region’s visual culture, to oversee joint collaborations in their region, to ensure information on art is available and to provide expertise on questions relating to their core activity.
The Helsinki City Art Museum’s technical operations are carried out by conservationists and museum technicians. The bulk of the work is around changing exhibitions, when each individual work undergoes inspection on arrival and departure, and when the exhibition is designed. Conservationists also inspect and repair the Museum’s own works each time they are deposited on loan to other museums or exhibitions. In addition, the conservationists deal with the repair and with the overseeing and arranging of transport of artworks deposited in the city’s institutional and office buildings and, for instance, schools. Museum technicians work together with conservationists during changes of exhibitions. They work on setting up and dismantling exhibitions. In addition, they take care of the transport and hanging of works deposited in office buildings. They are also responsible for work relating to building technology on the Museum’s premises and for maintaining the storage spaces of the collections.
Previously the Museum was part of the City of Helsinki Cultural Office but it was established as an independent municipal department on 1.1.1998. According to the Museum’s regulations, the Board of Directors of the Helsinki City Art Museum together with the Art Museum accountable to it are responsible for the City’s visual arts policy and art museum programme as well as for other responsibilities according to approved objectives.