I love fine art. I studied it for years, starting in high school. I’ve spent countless hours of my life covered in charcoal and paint, trying to remember the major “-isms” of the past few centuries. That being said, no one can deny that fine art is very well represented in the gallery scene already. The majority of art on display, from huge prestigious museums to indie galleries, is fine art. This is no different in Helsinki. For that reason, I’d like to shine a light on some galleries which showcase art not considered “fine”.
A working definition of “fine art” is necessary here. It’s a pretty fuzzy definition, so bear with me! The traditional definition of fine art is art which is made simply for the sake of having something beautiful. That is, art which does not serve a practical purpose. “Fine art” can be used in a contemporary sense as a foil to “commercial art”, or art which is made to sell something. This definition basically takes the traditional definition and expands on it in a specific way.
There is obviously a lot of overlap between fine art and commercial art, but things like graphic design and illustration are usually considered commercial instead of fine. Some curators of fine art might be – well, let’s be frank – a bit pretentious. So, unfortunately, they might exclude this kind of art from gallery exhibitions. But I’ve taken a good look through Helsinki’s art scene and gathered a few places where you can see this kind of art. It’s SO worth seeing!
I said I would talk about street art again, and I’m keeping that promise! This is not the last time either.
This “mural hopping” trek started in Sörnäinen, and took me through Vallila to Arabianranta. Northeastern Helsinki is filled with pockets of hipster heaven, with art students, vintage stores, and graffiti everywhere. My own first year of graduate school was spent at Aalto University’s Arabia campus! This campus has now (sadly) been mostly abandoned and classes moved to Otaniemi, Espoo, but the art in the neighbourhood remains.
Here are five large-scale murals worth checking out in this corner of town. All are directly on tram and bus lines, so they’re easily accessible. Northeastern Helsinki is like a huge free art museum!
What do you expect from a museum with free entry? Maybe a few pieces of mediocre art? Perhaps some boring artefacts which you try to be interested in but completely forget once you leave the museum. There are definitely some free museums which suffer from these downfalls, but it doesn’t have to be that way!
Even if you’re down to your last euro, you can still see some interesting museums in Helsinki. The three below are free at all times and are definitely worth the visit. If you’re hungry for more, try to be in Helsinki in the first week of any given month. That’s when many museums offer free entry on a specific day of the week. Here are some examples:
LUOMUS natural history museum: month’s first friday
Kiasma contemporary art museum: month’s first friday
Sinebrychoff art museum: month’s first wednesday
Helsinki has its share of traditional graffiti, both legal and decidedly less so. There are grand masterpieces covering entire walls of buildings, commissioned by the city or neighbourhood to brighten up a boring stretch of grey cement. There are also tags and crude sketches on whatever surface was accessible, out of sight of law enforcement. I pay constant attention to street art out of curiosity and have come across some awesome finds this way. I will undoubtedly talk about street art more than once on this blog, starting with these discoveries: two stretches of road in Helsinki’s central neighbourhoods with a bunch of painted electrical network boxes.
I recently spent a few days in Stockholm, and while riding their metro I recalled reading that their metro system has been called the world’s longest art gallery. It’s an apt description since artwork fills so many of the stations that make up the 110km long system. I then thought about Helsinki’s own tiny metro system back home and tried to remember what kind of art and design it contained. Helsinki’s metro boasts the record of being the northernmost one in the world, but it certainly isn’t large. Only just now, in the autumn of 2017, has the system even expanded outside the borders of Helsinki proper with the (very late, but very appreciated) LänsiMetro.
With eight shiny new stations and five more planned for the future, it’s the perfect time to review the art in Helsinki’s metro system. Designers have, of course, designed the new stations with contemporary aesthetics in mind. But some of the older stations have been housing art installations for years. In fact, two of the stations I will talk about in this post are from the original set. That being said, I do applaud the LänsiMetro for valuing art and design enough to include it in their plans from the beginning.
I decided to focus only on artworks that permanently reside in Helsinki’s metro stations for the sake of this post. Even some of the comparatively bare stations in the system house art sometimes, for projects such as the current “Ole hyvä Helsinki“.