Ateneum to exhibit classics in new light

The country's oldest and largest art museum opens a new exhibition, "Stories of Finnish Art," which brings together a comprehensive overview of Finnish art, including classic artworks that have not been on display in decades.

Wäinö Aaltosen Betonipoika urbaania elämää kuvaavassa salissa. Image: Yle

Ateneum opens a new exhibition this Friday, which brings together -- for the first time -- a comprehensive collection of Finnish art, including classics that have not been on display to the public in decades.

That's because of previous space restrictions and roof renovations that closed the third floor -- until now.

The new exhibition "Stories of Finnish Art" opens up new spaces, previously unseen works, and a totally new display framework, thanks to Dutch design guru Marcel Schmalgemeijer and graphic artist Marielle Tolenaar.

Interactive experiences

For example, by pressing a touchscreen, it's possible to get acquainted with painter Helene Schjerfbeck's life (1862-1946) and some of her drawings that are too fragile to be displayed. Schjerfbeck's works have fetched small fortunes at international auctions, including the 2008 sale for nearly four million euros of "Dancing Shoes" by Sotheby's London.

According to Ateneum director Susanna Pettersson, "This is our visual culture's DNA. This collection features key works that just about everyone will recognise. The collection also includes works that foreigners came to Finland to purchase."

Finnish- and foreign-owned art are presented side-by-side along with train tickets, receipts, letters and other evidence of the experiences that inspired artists to create these works.

The exhibition also illustrates the story of Finland's cultural development. For example, peasants are portrayed in paintings reading and writing -- evidence that the seeds for Finland's high literacy rates were planted long ago.