10 Exhibitions to Visit in Helsinki & Finland this summer

by Paul Joseph  |  Published June 14, 2024

Finland and its southern capital of Helsinki may be geographically remote, but their cultural connections to the rest of the world provide fertile ground for a busy programme of exhibitions.

Lars-Gunnar Nordström, Sekvenssi, 2000. L-G Nordströmin säätiön kokoelma / EMMA – Espoon modernin taiteen museo (Photo: Ari Karttunen / EMMA)

The Northern European nation’s frosty climate lends itself to indoor pursuits, with many visitors choosing to spend time in one of the numerous museums dotted around the country and its bustling capital. And while summertime sees the temperatures climb up to pleasant levels, it’s still worth having some alternative options if the weather lets you down If you’re coming to Finland this summer and would like to check out an exhibition or two during your stay, we’ve picked out 10 running through the upcoming months.

Experiments in Concretism

Concretism is an art movement characterised by the use of non-representational forms, structures and geometry. Featuring work by more than fifty artists, this exhibition highlights the complexity, material diversity and playful approach of the movement.  It presents concretist works from different periods, from the very beginning of the movement in the 1950s to the present day, with artworks from the EMMA museum’s own collections complemented by works acquired or commissioned specifically for the exhibition. Highlights include a section dedicated to Lars-Gunnar “Nubben” Nordström, a pioneer of Finnish concretism, in the centennial year of his birth.

EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Espoo / Through 2 March 2025

Water and Life

Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931): The Rushes, 1884. Finnish National Gallery / The Ateneum Art Museum (Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen)

Water covers almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface and is essential for life. Indeed, it’s widely acknowledged in scientific circles that life on this planet began with water. Through a selection of paintings, sculptures, graphic art and contemporary art, this exhibition explores humans’ journey to water from the seventeenth century until the present day. Notable artists whose works appears in the exhibition include the likes of Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot and Charles-François Daubigny, both of whose work were devoted to exploring themes around nature.

Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki / Through 11 August 2024

The Pool – The Origin of Pool Skateboarding

The kidney-shaped form of the Villa Mairea pool in Western Finland, designed by acclaimed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, has become a symbol of the skateboarding trend known as ‘pool skateboarding. This project combines three separate exhibitions, each united by the renowned pool and its influence on international skateboarding culture. Highlights include a section on rap and hip-hop culture that explores the history of Finnish rap and Central Finland’s influence on the development of hip-hop as a whole. Visitors are invited to submit skateboarding-themed photos to be featured in the exhibitions throughout the summer.

Aalto2, Jyväskylä / Through 5 January 2025

FIX: Care and Repair

(Photo: Design Museum)

Objects and buildings undergo constant change. They age, get dirty and break. Maintaining and repairing things are active practices that reflect our prevailing values. What objects and things do we invest time and money in caring for? What is left outside the scope of care? Featuring selected examples from the fields of architecture and design, along with four newly commissioned contemporary art installations, this exhibition focuses on repair and maintenance, serving as a reminder that our shared world is never finished but constantly requiring of renovation and renewal.

Design Museum, Helsinki / Through 5 January 2025

Oceanista – Fashion and the Sea

Oceanista – fashion and the sea at the Finnish Maritime Museum (Photo: Heli Sorjonen / National Museum of Finland)

This exhibition shines a light on how the style and culture of sailors has been borrowed in high fashion over the decades. Featuring over 100 garments and accessories, it showcases ocean-inspired fashion designed by internationally renowned fashion houses and Finnish designers, including Chanel, Thom Browne, Jean Paul Gaultier, Iris van Herpen, Maison Margiela, Moncler, Pierre & Gilles, Philip Treacy, Versace, Idaliina Friman and Anne-Mari Pahkala. Among the items on display are ocean-inspired and nostalgic classics and streetwear dating back to the end of the 19th century.

Maritime Museum of Finland, Kotka / 29 September 2025

Recollections – Textile Art by Raija Jokinen

Raija Jokinen: Peli, 2023, pellavakuitu, ompelulanka, tärkki / kuitupiirros- ja maalaus, ompelu. (Photo: Ilari Järvinen, Museovirasto)

The works of award-winning Finnish artist and textile designer Raija Jokinen are widely considered to hover between fragility and transience. In Jokinen’s artistic identity, textile and visual arts merge and expressions converge in painting, sculpture, graphics and textiles. ​Art Häme Castle in southern Finland, linen, in particular, has played an important role for centuries. In the 18th century, it was used to pay taxes, and in the 19th century, when the medieval castle served as a women’s prison, the inmates used it to make linen textiles. ​Together with around 40 works by Jokinen, this exhibition showcases a selection of items which were used by the female prisoners of Häme Castle to make linen all those years ago.

Häme Castle, Hämeenlinna / 20 October 2024

Places & Hoods – See Helsinki Anew

This immersive exhibition offers fresh and unique points of view on the built and green environment of Helsinki and challenges the visitor to think about their own relationship with the ever-changing city. Featuring old and new wooden houses, suburban daycare centres, parks and rocky beaches, industrial milieus pulsating with life and monumental concrete architecture, viewers are invited to embark on a colourful and captivating journey through the city. Highlights include the chance to dive to the bottom of the sea, decipher hieroglyphs, pop by a souvenir kiosk, climb to the top of the city, browse a giant book of trees and construct a prefabricated building.

Helsinki City Museum, Helsinki / Through 15 September 2024

Eero Järnefelt

Eero Järnefelt: Saimi in the Meadow (1892). Deposit, Järvenpää Art Museum. (Photo: Järvenpää Art Museum / Matias Uusikylä)

The late Finnish painter Eero Järnefelt’s art draws from the fascinating background of his cultured, cosmopolitan family, and it is characterised by capturing the essential traits in both nature and people. The artist knew how to portray his subjects, with his work featuring minute details, delicate atmospheres, and imposing monumentality. The exhibition sheds light on the various aspects of Järnefelt’s view of landscapes and people, as well as providing information about Järnefelt’s immediate and extended family, study trips, home life in Suviranta on Lake Tuusulanjärvi, and the links between his art and the ‘Fennoman’ ideology of his time.

Art Museum Ateneum, Helsinki / Through 25 August 2024

So many kin in my heart – Aune Huhtamella’s life’s work

Born at the start of the 1930s, Aune Kaarina Huhtamella was highly respected by her family as a maker of Sámi  (named after the indigenous Sámi people of Northern Europe) handicrafts who clothed both her nine siblings and other relatives from an early age. This exhibition shows a selection of Sámi clothing created by Huhtamella that tells stories about Sámi families, crafting and the meaning of the traditional clothing both in everyday life and during celebrations. It guides the visitor to the heart of what it means to be Sámi and the act of making Sámi clothes as a way of taking care and as an expression of love for one’s family that will carry one through the stormy sea of life.

Siida – Sámi Museum and Nature Center, Inari / Through 29 September 2024

Feels Like Home

Maarit Hohteri, Paula and Miro, Kuopio, 1999. Detail. (Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen)

Belonging is linked to identity – to who we are and where we come from. This exhibition explores themes of home and belonging through contemporary art, featuring artworks that show that home can be a physical place, a community, or a state of mind, and can also be found in a language or culture. But how does it feel not to belong? The exhibition shares experiences of how it feels when home is lost or far away, whether by choice or force of circumstance, showing how individual experiences can often be intertwined with social change and broader historical events.

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki / Through 12 January 2025