Last week I ventured over to the Helsinki Design Museum.

I had been told that the displays -as in the method of displaying the art- were fantastic and very well made. Plus, I am a little ashamed at how little I know of Finnish design, especially if I am to call myself a “designer.”

The museum was founded over 140 years ago, and moved to the beautiful neo-gothic building in 1978. However, do not think that this museum is old or outdated. It displays extremely contemporary works as well as a large collection of Finland’s historical design pieces.

The main floor of the museum is occupied by a small cafe and gift shop as well as a chronological display of the history of Finnish design. It is a very tailored display that literally walks the visitor through the history of Finnish design, discussing political and economical factors as well as aesthetic trends.
I learned, overwhelmingly, about how influential the economy was in the development of Finnish design. For example, how the Oil Crisis prompted the move away from plastic production of furniture and goods. Or the need to export massive amounts of furniture following suburban and economic expansion after the second World War lead to nesting and module furniture pieces (particularly by Aalto).
There is a beautiful crystal vase from one of the World’s Fairs depicting Finland’s pavilion on display. That was my favorite piece on the main floor. There was also a small “chair room” displaying many Finnish-designed chairs.

The second floor contains a much much more contemporary rotating display. I appreciate most contemporary art for what it is; art is always progressive. That is why every great artist is well known. But there is no sense in continuing to create Sistine Chapels or Impressionistic lilies, because they have been done and mastered.
Some of the work was not to my liking (though I appreciated it) but I was very impressed by many of the pieces. Some were strikingly beautiful, some very odd and whimsical (I always enjoy art that makes you laugh) and some were thought provoking. Here are some of my favorites:

This piece titled “Gaza”

The basement had a display made by a collaboration between children and local glass-makers. The children drew fantastical creatures, which the glass blowers turned into 3-dimensional pieces. Some were pretty hilarious. It was a really great display. Also, the space was awesome.

This is definitely a “must see” for Helsinki visitors!


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