This week marks the halfway point for The Untitled Drawing Club – six weeks in with six more to go. We are travelling to Finland, to visit the Helsinki Art Museum or HAM for short. Firstly, great acronym – made me very hungry reading it. Secondly, I am so excited to ‘digitally’ visit Finland and see their Art Museum. As soon as I opened the Google maps link, I knew exactly what artwork I was going to create. Read on to learn all about this Art Museum and to see the artwork inspired by my visit. Link to the Club will be shared at the end.
I would like to start by sharing the most random fact I know about Finland. It is the only country in the world with a sauna in one of their Burger King fast food restaurants. I felt it was necessary to share because sharing is caring. Let’s now turn to HAM. Although this museum is located right in the city centre of Helsinki, it has a much wider outreach that I will talk about later.
When you want to learn more about a museum or gallery, a great place to start is to find their mission statement. For HAM, their mission is ‘making Helsinki more fun through art.’ What a seriously great purpose. Their collection consists of over 9 000 individual works of art that, according to their website, ‘belong to the people of Helsinki.’ I am immediately drawn to the fact that this museum already sounds so inclusive and transparent. These artworks, along with international and national exhibitions, are displayed in a gallery space known as the Tennis Palace.
What I’m also drawn to is their language. It’s not usual art gallery language that can, at times, be alienating. Their vision is straight-forward – offer a distinct museum experience, work with audiences, reach new audiences and build international interest. The theme of inclusion really runs through everything they do. You can tell just how dedicated they are to the people of Helsinki and how they want to both establish and strengthen their relationship with visitors.
It is also worth mentioning their values because I find them particularly interesting. They are courage, joy and presence. That theme I just mentioned is also present here as the Museum wants to produce joy and facilitate connections. They exist for the public and want to welcome everyone through their doors for a meaningful experience.
Not only does HAM achieve its mission and implement its values within the four walls of the museum, but they reach almost every corner of Helsinki. There are just over 3 500 public works of art around the city with 480 accessible all hours of the day and night. Of the 3 500, 250 are part of HAM’s collection. Revealing again just how inclusive they aim to be, their website states ‘all residents of Helsinki have an equal right to live in a high-quality environment’ which is why they have ensured there are many accessible artworks. Reading about this museum has ticked one of their values – it literally filled me with joy.
Very briefly, the history of HAM reaches back to 1885 when the City of Helsinki’s art collection acquired a Johan Ludvig Runeberg sculpture. After opening the Kluuvi Gallery in 1968 then the Art Museum Meilahti in 1976, the museum was eventually moved to the Tennis Palace which opened in 2015.
You can explore the public art online, but the collection is not digitally available. If you would like to see some sculptures then click here. I recommend starting with a couple of sculpture trails. The rainbow Helsinki one is very interesting. If you’re looking to ponder some difficult questions, check out the ‘Questions of Life’ trail (photographed below). You can follow the trails and click on each sculpture for more information.
Tennis Palace Exhibition Space
The links provided by the Club send you to an outside view of the Museum, a vlog (video blog) made by the artist (and Club organiser), Alexis Winter, and a Google maps image of an exhibition room. The latter two give an overview of what awaits visitors once they step inside. The exhibition rooms look very spacious and industrial. The beautiful curve of the roof adds a nice architectural touch that allows the space to feel much larger and grander. I imagine that actually visiting this space is quite an experience.
If you want to watch the artist vlog then click here. As well as HAM, the video also shows you Suomenlinna, an 18th century sea fortress. For the other links, you can access them via the Club’s page here.
When I clicked on the link to see the exterior of the Museum, I noticed two things. Firstly, the snow on the rooftops of buildings surrounding the Museum. I love winter so much and seeing snow was wonderful. Secondly, the seagull head at the entrance to the Museum. I had to look twice to make sure it was, in fact, the head of a seagull. I can confidently say I’ve never seen a seagull (real or not) in the snow. So, to capture this weird juxtaposition, I have drawn the seagull and cross-stitched some snowflakes.
I leave this week with yet another museum I must visit. For those of you wondering, the Burger King with the sauna is about an 11 minute walk (approximately) from the Museum. I’m not telling you how to plan your day, I’m just providing you with an option.