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Helsinki's Amos Rex sees loss-making first year despite queues

The director of the highly-popular Helsinki attraction said that the museum's 2.5 million-euro loss was smaller than expected.

Amos Rexissä teamLabin näyttely
A light installation by the Tokyo-based teamLab collective. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Located in downtown Helsinki's Glass Palace (Lasipalatsi), the city's trendy new museum Amos Rex closed its first year of operations in the red -- to the tune of 2.5 million euros.

The result is in spite of the sell-out popularity of a "totally immersive digital installation" by Japan-based art collective teamLab, which drew long queues, including on the last day of the four-month exhibition on the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January.

The display itself attracted some 270,000 visitors and patrons reportedly waited in line for up to four hours for a chance to see the show.

Director Kai Kartio said that the long queues and enthusiasm for the exhibition meant that the museum was able to record a smaller loss than expected in its first year of operation -- at 2.5 million euros instead of an anticipated three million euros.

"Running an art museum is a special kind of business in the sense that is is very difficult -- in practice impossible -- to do it so that the result would be positive," Kartio said.

Amos Rex is an annex of Helsinki's Amos Anderson Art Museum, Finland's largest privately-owned museum.

Fixed costs, minors and museum cards

The museum director attributed the loss-making outcome to fixed costs: premises and personnel, which he said were not covered by ticket sales, in spite of the popularity of the venue. Additionally, entry was free for minors and discounted for holders of museum cards.

"Half of our paying customers had museum cards -- which is a great thing -- but compensation for the card doesn't come close to the full entry fee."

Kartio noted that ticket sales still had the effect of reducing the loss the museum would have otherwise registered. However he said that the impact of the operation was seen in other ways.

"It is an amazing feeling [to know] that we were able to provide people with this kind of experience. To know that what we do is so meaningful for our visitors. This is the reason we are here, it's our purpose," he concluded.

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