Helsinki’s new cultural powerhouse

Nick Myall
Thursday 19 Jul 2018

The Amos Rex Art museum will open in Helsinki on 30 August 2018, with “Massless” a major international exhibition by the Tokyo-based digital art collective teamLab filling its 2,200 sq m gallery space

The Finnish capital Helsinki will gain a new cultural landmark on 30 August 2018 when the doors of Amos Rex open to the public. The new art museum will complete after a five-year, €50 million project designed by architecture firm JKMM, which has seen the refurbishment of the landmark 1930’s Lasipalatsi building in Central Helsinki.  At the heart of the museum, a new 2,200 sq m world-class flexible gallery space has been created beneath a remodelled public square.

Amos Rex will open with Massless, an installation by the Tokyo-based digital art collective teamLab.  Massless will feature five digital artworks: four fully immersive spaces created using digital projection, including a new work making its debut at Amos Rex, and an LCD screen-based display. The exhibition will be one of the largest completed by the collective outside Japan and the first teamLab exhibition in the Nordic region.

Kai Kartio, Director of Amos Rex, said: “The opening of Amos Rex is one of the biggest events to occur in the cultural life of Helsinki for a generation and will offer unrivalled facilities for the display of art, exhibitions, film and performance. Art used to be something you hung on the wall and went respectfully to contemplate. Today art is increasingly interactive and conversational. It is something people make and experience together. Contemporary art finds all the time new forms and new media and this is exemplified in the work of our first artistic contributor, teamLab.  teamLab’s immersive and participatory digital artwork is a fantastic way to demonstrate the expressive possibilities opened up to us by our new galleries.”

Jan Vapaavuori , Mayor of Helsinki said: "The City of Helsinki is delighted to partner with Föreningen Konstsamfundet and the Amos Anderson Art Museum to create this world-class cultural facility that will open up opportunities for Finns and our international visitors to experience new forms of cultural expression. Helsinki’s goal is to champion world-class culture, arts and education opportunities for all of our citizens and people visiting our city. Access to the most exciting examples of cultural production from around the world allows us to grow our minds beyond the confines of everyday experience, giving our citizens a global outlook, educating and entertaining in equal measure.”

The Amos Rex museum is a major new cultural landmark for the City of Helsinki. Designed by JKMM Architects, the new museum is housed in the distinguished 1930s Lasipalatsi building in Central Helsinki and will add to an established cultural quarter that already includes the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki Music Centre, Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall, the National Museum of Finland, the Finnish Museum of Natural History, the Ateneum Museum, Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) and the soon-to be completed Oodi Central Library.

Amos Rex’s exhibition programme will extend from the newest, often experimental, contemporary art to 20th-century Modernism and ancient cultures. Amos Rex aims to present captivating and ambitious art refreshingly and exuberantly. The goal will be for the past, present and future to produce unique experiences and surprising encounters beneath and above ground, and on the screen.

The centrepiece of the new museum is a 2,200 sq m gallery space created beneath the Lasipalatsi square which will offer the curators of Amos Rex the opportunity to accommodate large scale works of art and performance, and to stage exhibitions, installations and performance in a hugely flexible space with a high degree of technical control.

The roof of the new gallery is formed by a series of domes with angled rooflights that frame views of the surrounding area and allow exhibitions to be lit with natural light if the curators choose. The shape of the domes is expressed in the topography of the newly landscaped public square which sits above the galleries, as a series of gently rolling forms clad in concrete tiles.

The gallery will be supported by world-class technical and storage spaces in an additional basement storey beneath the galleries, giving Amos Rex the necessary facilities to loan artefacts from other institutions internationally.

Asmo Jaaksi, Founding Partner of JKMM said: “Integrating one of Finland’s architecturally pioneering 1930s buildings - Lasipalatsi - as part of the Amos Rex project has been a moving experience. By adding a bold new layer to this special site, we feel we are connecting past with present. We would like this to come across as a seamless extension as well as an exciting museum space very much of its time. We would like the new Lasipalatsi Square with its gently curving ceiling domes to be received as a welcome addition to Helsinki’s urban culture; a place everyone and anyone in the city can feel is their own.”

Entry to Amos Rex will be free for everybody under the age of 18 and an art education workshop dedicated to children and youngsters will occupy space alongside the main gallery. Visitors between the ages of 18 and 30 will pay a special reduced entry fee of €5.

In addition to the new gallery and art-handling spaces beneath the Lasipalatsi square, Amos Rex will feature a 590 seat cinema, the 1930’s Bio Rex cinema, which has been incorporated into Amos Rex.

The entire Lasipalatsi building, one of Finland’s most significant early modernist buildings, has been given a 13,000 sq m refurbishment, overseen by JKMM, with special care given to preserve original features that include the first external neon lighting in Finland.  Existing restaurants and shops within the Lasipalatsi will continue to trade and will help contribute to the life and activity of the building and its public square. 

The Amos Rex museum has its origins in the Amos Anderson Art Museum, which since 1965 has been Helsinki’s leading private museum.  To meet changes in the practice and display of contemporary art in the 21st Century, the trustees of the Amos Anderson Art Museum concluded that a new venue would be better suited for providing new art experiences than the museum’s existing accommodation in converted newspaper offices. The nearby Lasipalatsi building, one of Finland’s best-preserved examples of 1930s functionalist architecture was identified as a new home for the museum.

Amos Rex was constructed through a joint venture between the City of Helsinki and the Föreningen Konstsamfundet, an arts foundation set up as the bequest of the philanthropist Amos Anderson. Föreningen Konstsamfundet operated the Amos Anderson Art Museum and has provided all the funding for the new Amos Rex. The foundation will operate Amos Rex as a private institution.

Nick Myall

News editor

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