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Urban Encounters: Ateneum Art Museum exhibits Finnish art from the 20th century
Aarre Heinonen, At the Coffee Table (1938). Finnish National Gallery/Ateneum Art Museum, Hoving Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery/Hannu Aaltonen.

HELSINKI.- How did urbanisation influence the Finnish way of life – and how did this show in visual art? How did everyday life change when people had more free time and gender roles were liberated? Urban Encounters tells a fascinating story about 20th-century Finland. The exhibition of approximately 300 works features many rarely shown pieces from the Finnish National Gallery collection.

Urban Encounters arose from the exhibition The Modern Woman, which presented works by Helene Schjerfbeck, Elga Sesemann, Sigrid Schauman and Ellen Thesleff. Produced by the Ateneum, the exhibition was shown in New York, Stockholm and Oulu. Urban Encounters broadens our perspective on changes to the Finnish way of life in cities, and how these changes are shown in Finnish visual art. The topics of the works range from urbanity to domesticity, from war to the circus, and from body to identity. The works include a great many recognisable cityscapes from Helsinki.

Urban Encounters is a celebration of the Ateneum collection: the exhibition features some 300 works by more than 80 artists from the Finnish National Gallery’s collection. In addition, the exhibition presents seven works by Elga Sesemann from Tuomo Seppo’s private collection. Helene Schjerfbeck’s work is being represented by 14 paintings. The exhibition also includes new works donated to the Ateneum, including urban-themed prints and drawings by Simo Hannula.

Artists featured in the exhibition include Marcus Collin, Antti Favén, Aarre Heinonen, Tove Jansson, Olli Lyytikäinen, Åke Mattas, Ulla Rantanen, Sigrid Schauman and Esko Tirronen. About half of the works are prints by artists such as Marjatta Hanhijoki, Reino Harsti, Juho Karjalainen, Viktor Kuusela, Helmi Kuusi, Aune Mikkonen and Tuulikki Pietilä. Sculptures in the exhibition will be by, for example, Wäinö Aaltonen, Marjo Lahtinen, Essi Renvall and Helena Pylkkänen. The exhibition galleries show surprising encounters and edgy juxtapositions, with works on view from different eras, ranging from the 1910s to the 1980s.

The exhibition has been curated by the keeper of prints and drawings Anu Utriainen, the chief curator Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, and director general, adjunct professor Susanna Pettersson (Nationalmuseum, Sweden). The exhibition architecture is designed by Iines Karkulahti and Meri Wiikinkoski.

The exhibition coincides with the launch of a comprehensive publication, written by the special researcher Erkki Anttonen; the director of collections management at the Finnish National Gallery, Riitta Ojanperä; the writer Agneta Rahikainen; the Keeper of Prints and Drawings Anu Utriainen; the chief curator Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff; and the adjunct professor Susanna Pettersson. The publication is available in Finnish, Swedish and English.

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