The Life of Art

A peek into the Sampo art collection exhibits rarely seen gems of Finnish art from the Golden Age to modernism.

25 November - 31 December 2017, Kunsthalle Helsinki

The Life of Art celebratory exhibition compiled from the collection of the Sampo Group is a fresh look at well-known artists: the exhibition includes rarely seen works by artists ranging from Akseli Gallen-Kallela to Helene Schjerfbeck, and from Juhana Blomstedt to Leena Luostarinen.


The comprehensive collection includes around 1000 works, from which the exhibition curator, art historian Tuula Karjalainen selected an array of around 120 works as a look into Finnish art from the 1820s till the 1990s.


"The exhibition is an exciting look into the different phases of art in Finland. The Sampo collection includes amazing works, many of which have only exhibited rarely, if ever. The exhibition also includes less familiar, early works by well-known artists," says curator Tuula Karjalainen.


The aim of the Sampo collection was to create an outlook on the development of visual arts in Finland and to bring art into the everyday life of clients and employees alike. Most of the artworks were acquired after the 1960s.


The Sampo art collection is exhibited publicly courtesy of Mandatum Life and the Kaleva Mutual Insurance Company.




Pictured above: Mether-Borgström, Ernst - Keskitalvi, 1987 (detail). Sampo's Collection. Photo: Rauno Träskelin
Pictured below: Lindholm, Berndt - Merimaalaus (detail). Sampo's Collection. Photo: Rauno Träskelin

Sections of the exhibition

The Life of Art exhibition is divided into four sections: The Old Masters, The 1910–1950s, Expressionism & Surrealism, and Concrete Art.

The Old Masters

Frothy coastal waters and meandering forest trails – paintings from the 1800s show Finnish nature at its best. In addition to the national landscape, the exhibition also features portraits.

A peek at the exhibition

At the tender age of 21, Axel Gallén, later Gallen-Kallela, painted a portrait of Professor E.R. Neovius’s family. The milieu portrait contains several symbolic elements and offers a glimpse of a period bourgeois family home.


Gallen-Kallela, Akseli - Professori E R Neoviuksen perhemuotokuva, 1886 (detail). Sampo's Collection. Photo: Rauno Träskelin


In the 1910s, paintings began to reflect new influences as the many forms of modernism made their way to Finland. National character gave way to influences from abroad, with Finnish painters seeking inspiration from Stockholm, Paris and as far away as America.

A peek at the exhibition

Many of Håkan Brunberg’s näive art paintings depict Helsinki’s urban landscape. His Tulipalo (“Fire”) painting, part of the collection, is linked to the artist’s life also on a personal level: Brunberg made a career for himself as the City of Espoo’s fire chief.


Brunberg, Håkan - Tulipalo (detail). Sampo's Collection. Photo: Rauno Träskelin

Expressionism, Surrealism

In the 1980s, several strong female painters, whose neo-expressionist, colour-saturated paintings embodied courage and freedom, arrived on the art scene. The exhibition also takes a look at Finnish surrealism.

A peek at the exhibition

Leena Luostarinen is known for her mysteriously symbolic paintings. One such painting is Myrkkykukka (“Poisonous Flower”), which draws the viewer in with its slightly ominous appeal. The title given to the painting is a reference to Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil, an iconic masterpiece of rebellion and eroticism.


Luostarinen, Leena - Myrkkykukka II, 1986 (detail). Sampo's Collection. Photo: Rauno Träskelin

Concrete Art

In the abstract works of concrete art, signs of human influence are kept to a minimum – the paintings are characterised by straight lines, flat colour planes and an absence of references to sensory observations of the outside world.

A peek at the exhibition

Mether-Borgström’s jovial painting Keskitalvi (“Mid-winter”) is a colourful, eye-catching late production of the versatile artist. The angular, geometric shapes give the painting a rhythmic and dynamic tone.


Mether-Borgström, Ernst - Keskitalvi, 1987 (detail). Sampo's Collection. Photo: Rauno Träskelin

Kunsthalle Helsinki
Nervanderinkatu 3
Tickets +358 40 450 7211

Tue, Thu, Fri 11–18
Wed 11–20
Sat-Sun 11–17
Mon closed

€12 / €8
Under 18s – no charge
Museum Card

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