Art in Helsinki | The Finnish National Gallery

The Finnish National Gallery

The largest art museum institution in Finland, the Finnish National Gallery is comprised of three museums and the Central Art Archives. The three museums are the Ateneum Art Museum, the Sinebrychoff Art Museum and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. The stated aims of the FNG is to further the cultural heritage of Finnish visual arts, to maintain the significance of visual culture in contemporary times, and to continue to develop the art museum industry. The FNG also maintains and develops Finland’s largest collection of art, and the research archives for this field.

Ateneum Art Museum. Photo by Hannu Pakarinen as featured on the official site
Ateneum Art Museum. Photo by Hannu Pakarinen as featured on the official site

Ateneum Art Museum

The largest, and most important, of the three museums under the FNG umbrella is Ateneum, a predominately Finnish art museum with paintings by leading Finnish painters Albert Edelfelt, Eero Jarnevelt, Helene Scherfbeck, Pekka Hallönen, Hugo Simberg, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and Fanny Churberg. Occupying the landmark building designed by Theodor Höijer, which was inaugurated in 1887, its stated aim is “to care for, build up, study and present the most important art collection in Finland”. To this end, Ateneum houses by far the largest collection of paintings and sculptures in the country – a total of over 4,300 paintings and more than 750 sculptures. The collection showcases the development of Finnish art from the early 18th century right up to the experimental art movements of the 20th century. Of course, as it is a national gallery it has an obligation to share these works with other museums around the world, so at times some of the prized pieces may be on display elsewhere.

Although the Ateneum‘s collection is naturally focused on Finnish art and artists, it also boasts a fine collection of international art of over 650 works; paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. The most famous artists represented include Gaugin, Cézanne, Chagall, de Goya, Rodin, Delacroix, Modigliani, Munch and van Gogh. Indeed, one of the most prized pieces in the international collection is van Gogh’s painting “Street in Auvers-sur-Oise” from 1890 which was one the artist’s last works. In addition to the museum’s collections, which are on display on the third floor, Ateneum also presents top class temporary exhibitions.

Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Sinebrychoff Art Museum

Sinebrychoff Art Museum

The Sinebrychoff Art Museum is the second of the museums administered by the Finnish National Gallery, and is the only museum in the country which specialises in old European art. The permanent collection includes Finland’s most valuable, and internationally acclaimed, paintings by Old Masters. The collection spans a period from the 14th century through to the beginning of the 19th century, and has been built up through private donations, purchases and depositions. The oldest of these generous donations is the O.W Klinckowström art collection, which was given to the Finnish Art Society in 1851. Other notable donations include the H. F. Antell, C. G. Göhle, Hjalmar Linder and Carl von Haartman collections.

In all, some 20 donations make up the permanent collection, including that of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff in whose mansion the museum is located. The ‘Interior Museum’ presents their home just as it was in the 1910s. In addition to the Swedish portraiture of the 17th and 18th centuries which was the focus of Sinebrychoff collection, there is Dutch and Flemish art of the 17thcentury, as well as works by Italian, French, German, Spanish and English artists, graphic art and Japanese woodcuts. The collections include such artists as Cranach the Elder, Rembrandt, Tiepolo, Jan van Goyen and Alexander Roslin. The Museum also possesses a significant collection of miniatures, silver and porcelain. The Sinebrychoff Art Museum holds a couple of major exhibitions each year.

Kiasma - Museum of Contemporary Art
Kiasma – Museum of Contemporary Art

 Kiasma – Museum of Contemporary Art

The third museum administered by the Finnish National Gallery is Kiasma, whose basic functions are to organise changing exhibitions and augment its collection. Its programme includes presenting exhibitions of both Finnish and international contemporary art, displaying the collection through annually changing thematic exhibitions, arranging workshops, seminars and lectures, and putting on performances in the Kiasma Theatre. The collections of Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art are comprised of over 8000 works, primarily from Finland and other Nordic countries, which grows at around 200 pieces a year. Notable recent acquisitions include the Kouri Collection consisting of international contemporary art, acquired in 1997, and the donation related to the life’s work of Kalervo Palsa in 1999.