Kirpilä Art Collection


Located in a former private home on Pohjoinen Hesperiankatu in Helsinki, the Kirpilä Art Collection is a unique art museum that presents a passionate art lover’s collection and provides a glimpse of the life of well-to-do Helsinkians in the second half of the twentieth century. The museum is housed in the apartment that was the home of the rheumatologist Juhani Kirpilä (1931–1988) and his partner, the antiques dealer Karl (Kalle) Rosenqvist, between 1979 and 1988. It covers nearly 350 square metres on the top floor of a functionalist house in the district of Töölö.

Photograph: Kirpilä Art Collection Archive, digitised by Harri Tahvanainen

At his fiftieth birthday party on 28 September 1981, Juhani encouraged his guests to party to their hearts’ content, because he could not promise to be around for his next round decade. As a doctor, and a realist, he foresaw that he would not have many years left. For this very reason he had begun considering the future of his art collection and other assets already in the mid-1970s. In September 1976, Juhani had made a will in favour of the Finnish Cultural Foundation, involving the creation of a museum carrying his name.

Photograph: Kirpilä Art Collection Archive, digitised by Harri Tahvanainen

Juhani passed away at home on 3 August 1988. Kalle continued to live in the apartment for two years, while the Cultural Foundation made its plans for displaying the art collection. In 1990, all the artworks and other contents of the apartment were temporarily removed. The museum’s first director, Anneli Lindström, together with the administrative committee of the Juhani Kirpilä Fund, designed a space intended as a functional gallery that still embodied the character of the former dwelling. The Kirpilä Art Collection opened to the public on 3 June 1992.

Photograph: Riitta Supperi

From the very beginning, the Collection has been open twice a week free of charge. Soon the annual cycle of events, including lectures and concerts, was set up. In the year 2000, the museum started a series of lied concerts in collaboration with the Sibelius Academy of music. The idea was to revive the lied song tradition in an environment that suited its original setting of private homes and salons. The Kirpilä Art Collection also holds a variety of other concerts and children’s events, and offers free guided tours for school groups, as well as groups of immigrant Finnish learners. The themed tours, including queer tours, arranged by the museum’s guides have been a great success in recent years.

Photograph: Paavo Lehtonen

The Kirpilä Art Collection currently includes 540 artworks. Of these, 18 Juhani inherited from his parents, three he received as gifts, and six were purchased after his death. Only five of the works are by non-Finnish artists. There are 36 sculptures. The most recent purchase for the collection was Neosgaia (2017) by Raimo Saarinen (b. 1984), which was originally included in the Art Collection’s 25th anniversary exhibition Table Scenes, curated by Jenna Sutela, in the summer of 2017.

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