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27.02.2009 - 09.08.2009


To celebrate the 160 years of the Kalevala, Ateneum Art Museum presents the most extensive show of Kalevala art seen in decades. The display features more than 200 works from almost sixty artists, all inspired by the Finnish national epic.

This exhibition introduces the many faces of the Kalevala – how the Finnish national epic has appealed to visual artists through the times, from when it was first published up to the present day. Curated by Ateneum Art Museum's curator Riitta Ojanperä, the exhibition shows paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs from the 1850s to the late 20th century. Featured artists include R.W. Ekman, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Heikki W. Virolainen and Wäinö Aaltonen.

The historical part of the exhibition is built around different themes, with rooms displaying the artists' views of e.g. Väinämöinen, Kullervo and Aino as well as the birth of the world and the river of Tuonela. The characters and subject matter of the epic represent universal themes and myths that have a strong appeal even regardless of nationality.

The Kalevala is also celebrated in Ateneum with commissions. The Kalevala Society commissioned ten visual artists and ten contemporary composers to express their views of how the Kalevala looks and sounds in 2009. These new works of art and compositions make up a separate part of the exhibition.

The visual artists featured in the Artists' Kalevala 2009 project are Martti Aiha, Juhana Blomstedt, Ulla Jokisalo, Kuutti Lavonen, Stiina Saaristo, Risto Suomi, Nanna Susi, Marjatta Tapiola, Katja Tukiainen and Santeri Tuori. The composers include Kimmo Hakola, Pekka Jalkanen, Olli Kortekangas, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Herman Rechberger, Aulis Sallinen, Jukka Tiensuu, Riikka Talvitie, Jovanka Trbojevic and Lotta Wennäkoski.

Watch Katja Tukiainen's video Spring Fete and how I made it.

An essential accompaniment to the Kalevala exhibition is The Kalevala in Images, a book edited by exhibition curator Riitta Ojanperä, presenting the influence of the Kalevala on Finnish visual artists, and their interpretations of Kalevala themes. This richly illustrated 272-page book is available for 45 € at the Ateneum bookshop and web shop.

Fantasy Feasts – the Kalevala for 9th graders is a museum pedagogics project arranged by the Ateneum Art Museum as part of its Kalevala art exhibition. The project was led by artists Lea and Pekka Kantonen, while collaboration with schools was planned and carried out by students from the time and space arts department of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts. Two classes of ninth-graders from Helsinki comprehensive schools were also involved. The aim of the project was to bring the Kalevala, Kalevala art and folk poetry within the pupils' reach in a lively and meaningful way, and to draw them in as active contributors. The project also studied how artistic processes could be taken into the school world.