Kuva Inspiraatio -näyttelystä Tukholman Nationalmuseumissa..
Kuva: Kansallisgalleria / Hannu Pakarinen

Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classics to look at art history from today’s perspective


From 18 June to 20 September, the exhibition Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classics will be shown on the third floor of the Ateneum Art Museum. How have international contemporary artists been inspired by the classics of European art? And why is it these works, in particular, that have become known around the world? Inspiration presents art that draws inspiration from iconic masterpieces, created by today’s most interesting artists. These include Marina Abramović, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Nancy Fouts, Mark Karasick, Ola Kolehmainen, Jeff Koons, Joseph Kosuth, Sara Masüger and Yinka Shonibare CBE.

The Ateneum is to reopen to the public on Tuesday 2 June 2020. There will be a separate announcement on the details related to the reopening. Changes to the exhibition schedule and related events are possible.  

Artists’ takes range from revering old masters to questioning the art history of the white man

The history of Western art includes a great number of works that have become famous throughout the world. The subjects of many of these works involve classical mythology, biblical stories, or notable people and events. This exhibition is a contemporary take on iconic works and stories from art history. Famous paintings and sculptures have served as inspiration for contemporary artists whose viewpoints range from veneration of old masters to critical contemplation of power structures.

“Throughout history, art and artists have been valued as major contributors to society. The story of art assumed a new urgency, for example, during the Renaissance, when individual artists were put on a pedestal. Furthermore, the national art museums built in the mid-19th century, including the Ateneum, established canons and based their activities on presenting prominent artists who are part of these canons. Art is not disconnected from its history, and therefore, it is important to highlight how art classics are manifested in the work of today’s artists”, says Marja Sakari, the director of the Ateneum Art Museum, who acted as one of the curators of the exhibition. 

Exhibited works include those by internationally renowned Finnish and foreign contemporary artists

Works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt and other masters continue to inspire contemporary artists to this day. The artists featured in the exhibition include Marina Abramović, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Mat Collishaw, Nancy Fouts, Jeff Koons, Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, Heikki Marila, Jarmo Mäkilä, Aurora Reinhard, Jenny Saville, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Gavin Turk and Koen Vanmechelen. New works have been created especially for the exhibition by Mark Karasick, Ola Kolehmainen, Joseph Kosuth and Sara Masüger. The diverse exhibition includes paintings, sculptures, installations and video works.

The photographic artist Ola Kolehmainen’s new series of works, MVSEVM, which he photographed for this exhibition at key museums in Europe, adds the presence of museums to the display. The Ateneum exhibition also features works from the collection of replicas at the Finnish National Gallery, which includes replicas of works by European masters, created, for example, by Adolf von Becker, Magnus Enckell, Helene Schjerfbeck and Venny Soldan-Brofeldt.

This exhibition was originally on show at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in spring 2020, and its main curators are Susanna Pettersson and James Putnam. At the Ateneum Art Museum, the exhibition is curated by the museum director, Marja Sakari, and the chief curator, Sointu Fritze.

An exhibition catalogue, edited by Susanna Pettersson in collaboration with Timo Huusko and Lene Wahlsten, reveals the background of the exhibition from a variety of angles and discusses why specific works have proved to be inexhaustible sources of inspiration. The publication is available in Finnish, Swedish and English.

Go to the exhibition’s page


Photo: Exhibition at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen.