Helsinki Art Museum Tennis Palace Shows Ai Weiwei

Helsinki Art Museum Tennis Palace Shows Ai Weiwei

by DeVore Design, October 1, 2015
Ai Weiwei’s Tree, 2010 (right), and White House, 2015.
Photo: Maija Toivanen/© HAM and Ai Weiwei

On September 25 the Helsinki Art Museum reopened after a yearlong renovation and expansion of its home, the Tennis Palace (Tennispalatsi) building. Originally designed by Helge Lundstrom, Finnish architect of functionalist buildings around Helsinki in the 1930s and ’50s, the structure was first known as the Auto Palace and was intended to service cars during the planned 1940 Helsinki Olympic Games. (With the outbreak of World War II, the Games were postponed until 1952.) A 1938 expansion added a third floor of large, vaulted rooms occupied by Olympic tennis courts, giving the building its current name.

Those same high-ceilinged, spacious rooms have since been converted into expansive galleries for the Helsinki Art Museum. Established in 1976 with the major donation of more than 400 works from the Backsbacka family estate, HAM has grown its collection to include over 9,000 works and is today one of the largest in the Nordic region. This most recent renovation doubled the museum’s exhibition space to more than 32,000 square feet.

The museum hopes to draw larger and more diverse crowds with exhibitions of both Finnish and international artists, starting with its inaugural show, “Ai Weiwei @ Helsinki.” The show focuses on Ai’s sculptural work in wood and is the dissident Chinese contemporary artist’s first solo exhibition in Finland. Twenty-five pieces, dating from the 1980s to the present, will fill the airy third-story galleries and include two new works making their world premiere: White House (2015), a 20-foot-high reconstruction of a Qing dynasty home, made out of multiple types of wood and painted white; and Garbage Container (2014), a piece made in reference to the tragic deaths of five young boys by carbon monoxide poisoning after lighting a fire in a garbage bin where they had huddled for warmth.
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An installation view of Ai’s exhibition at HAM.
Photo: Maija Toivanen/© HAM

Concurrent exhibitions include shows of Finnish artists, such as IC-98, who currently represent Finland at the 56th Venice Biennale, and highlights from the permanent Backsbacka collection with “100 years of Taidesalonki,” a celebration of Finland’s oldest art gallery, established 100 years ago by the collector and dealer Leonard Backsbacka.

Through February 28 at the Helsinki Art Museum, Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, Helsinki; hamhelsinki.fi


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