Two women in an exhibition gallery smiling at the camera.
The curators of the Albert Edelfelt exhibition, Hanne Selkokari and Anne-Maria Pennonen. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen.

Albert Edelfelt exhibition became the biggest crowd-puller of all time at the Ateneum

The Albert Edelfelt exhibition, which closed on Sunday 17 September 2023, attracted a whopping 351,246 visitors to the Ateneum Art Museum. Prior to this, the most popular exhibition at the Ateneum had been the Pablo Picasso exhibition, from 18 September 2009 to 28 January 2010, which attracted 314,755 visitors. The Ateneum reopened on 14 April 2023, after a ventilation renovation, which lasted approximately one year.

The exhibition demonstrated the international influence of Albert Edelfelt

The exhibition, which ran from 5 May to 17 September 2023, examined the entire career of one of Finland’s most famous and beloved artists. Albert Edelfelt (1854–1905) was an influential international figure who was a trailblazer and builder of connections for later Finnish artists, especially in Paris.

Before opening at the Ateneum, the touring exhibition of the artist’s work was on display at the Petit Palais in Paris and the Gothenburg Museum of Art. In Paris, the exhibition exceeded the expected attendance, at nearly 140,000 visitors.

“After years of the pandemic and the renovation, we are happy that the audience has found its way back to the renewed Ateneum. It’s great that the museum’s most popular show of all time is an exhibition of works by a Finnish artist. Attractive cultural experiences also play a role in restoring the vitality of Helsinki city centre”, says the director of the Ateneum Art Museum, Marja Sakari.

“Our visitors have welcomed the Albert Edelfelt exhibition with open arms, and the feedback has been tremendously positive. Edelfelt’s works will definitely continue to be of interest to both the public and researchers in the future”, say Anne-Maria Pennonen,curator ofexhibitions, and Hanne Selkokari, curator of collections, who curated the exhibition.

Next up at the Ateneum: photographs by Hugo Simberg and Impressionist art

The Fokus Gallery exhibition Photos and art by Hugo Simberg, to be displayed from 19 September to 17 December 2023,will show the artist’s photographs, prints and paintings side by side. Hugo Simberg (1873–1917) was a Finnish painter and graphic artist, but also a prolific photographer. The exhibition, to be staged in a single gallery, celebrates Simberg, with the year 2023 marking the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth.

From 20 October 2023 to 25 February 2024, the third floor of the museum will be occupied by the exhibition Colour & Light – The Legacy of Impressionism. The exhibition puts top names in international art, such as Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley, side by side with artists from the heyday of Finnish Colourism, from 1906 to 1916. In Finnish art, this period also saw a shift towards new subject matter, as work and wild nature gave way to the comforts of middle-class life, parks, sunbathing, and nudity.

Also on display will be the new collection exhibition A Question of Time, which opened on 14 April 2023. The collection exhibition sheds light on today’s big questions through the mirror that visual art places in front of us. At the same time, the exhibition offers a fresh look at Finland’s oldest and most extensive art collection and its formation.

The Ateneum’s most popular temporary exhibitions of all time

In terms of the total number of visitors, the most popular temporary exhibitions at the Ateneum have been:

  • Albert Edelfelt (5.5.2023–17.9.2023), 351,246 visitors
  • Pablo Picasso (18.9.2009–28.1.2010), 314,755 visitors

  • Albert Edelfelt (3.9.2004–30.1.2005), 304,767 visitors 

  • Treasures from the National Gallery of Duckburg (3.10.2017–25.2.2018), 245,688 visitors (as part of the Stories of Finnish Art collection exhibition)
  • Tove Jansson (14.3.2014–7.9.2014), 293,837 visitors

In 2019, Ateneum attracted a total of 361,182 visitors. The year 2019 was the last time that the Ateneum was open normally for the whole year, before the pandemic and the ventilation renovation carried out from 2022 to 2023.