The National Museum of Finland has presented a remarkable opening, both on the symbolic and concrete level.
As the world and the times change, this traditional museum, centering on the history of Finland, has re-evaluated its relationship to the world and the museum’s clientele. The dusters have been taken to use, doors have been opened and the vistas widened. An important part of this development process is the new and impressive space for temporary exhibitions and with them, the welcome arrival of art and potential new curious visitors. This is certainly a key downtown location for a grand gallery space!
The first new exhibitions opens up thoughts that align logically with the initial core definitions of the museum policies; a man’s relationship to history and its treasures, to the current times and to the future; the modern man surrounded by history, or as a link in a chain; the signs of change in the environment and milieu, in habits, times and styles.
The photo artist Jaakko Heikkilä’s newly opened exhibition ”Rooms hidden by the Water” offers a fascinating perspective to both the daily life of the Italian nobility in the extraordinary palaces of the world’s most romantic city, Venice, and in general, to the passage of time and the poetic, looming melancholy in the vicinity of change.
At the exhibition opening, the artist told in his characteristic, jovial and accurately observant way about the 10-year project in Venice. He has been able to gain the confidence of the project’s key persons, and thus get access and spend leisurely time with the Venetian nobility: everyday life and interiors of private palaces. Beauty and decay exist simultaneously in the photos, without exclamation marks.
About fifty large scale prints are hung in a relaxed but well thought manner in the grandly spacious gallery halls of the National Museum. Heikkilä’s works are just as his way of speaking: jovial and accurately observant. The persons in the photos are relaxed, at ease, ”ordinary”, and surrounded by interiors recounting a glorious past.
The light of Heikkilä’s photos is of today, but its long (historical) impact on the interiors has faded the colours and made the silk of the curtains and wall panels brittle in very much the same way as the water, surrounding everything in Venice, also seeps into the built structures and the core of all.
Water and light are the constant in Venice while people -nobility or not- are just visiting. In their extended visit they construct and maintain their buildings as a sign of life, they live their city, they inhabit the amazing spaces created through the longing for beauty, through imagination and skill, even as they defy the gnawing erosion outside and in, and the powers of water, light and time.
Flamboyant examples of Venetian crafts have been dug out of the museum’s own collections, and placed sparsely in the exhibition galleries. They add welcome focal points in the rhythm and flow of the spaces and bring in a concrete hum of history. This gives an opportunity to the museum visitors to view, for the first time, these dazzling examples from the museum’s storage vaults: 19thy century mother-of pearl furniture, ornamental Murano mirrors, masterpieces of glass blowing. What other museum treasures await us when new art exhibitions will be opened in these spaces, and the inspired curatorial approach continues!
A successful book has been published of Heikkilä’s Venetian photos. In its graphic design, the choices to pair, for instance, a close up of the face of an old marble statue on one page, and the close-up of a living person’s face on the page next to it, create a dialogue slightly different in emphasis from the exhibition’s curatorial and design choices. This opens yet another perspective to Heikkilä’s insightful documentation: the people, the statues, the interiors and the buildings are the same, a section of a historical continuum and of the light of time.