Olli Lyytikäinen: Albatrossi ruispellossa (1979). Kansallisgalleria / Ateneumin taidemuseo. Kuva: Kansallisgalleria / Antti Kuivalainen.

The Ateneum to open Fokus, a new exhibition gallery, with a display by Olli Lyytikäinen

From 8 October 2019 to 5 January 2020, the Ateneum Art Museum presents an exhibition of works by the visual artist Olli Lyytikäinen (1949–1987). The year 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of Lyytikäinen’s birth. Lyytikäinen’s works from the 1970s anticipated the spirit of the art of the 1980s: among his contemporaries, the artist has taken on an almost mythical sheen as a modern Finnish artistic genius. The Fokus gallery will in the future present concise displays, featuring selected artists or themes from the Ateneum collection.

The exhibition to feature watercolours and drawings from 1969–1982

Olli Lyytikäinen (born in 1949 in Heinävesi) rose to fame in the 1970s as a member of the artist group Elonkorjaajat (‘Harvesters’). He fitted in well with a group of artists who cherished their artistic freedom, including Antero Kare, Philip von Knorring, Jan Olof Mallander, Ilkka Juhani Takalo-Eskola and Stuart Wrede. Lyytikäinen was not a trained visual artist, but he demonstrated artistic maturity from the very start of his career. Both high and popular culture provided him with visual material, which he applied, in an incomparable style, to his own art. For Lyytikäinen, making art was about finding and exploring one’s own identity.

The Ateneum exhibition, to be staged in one gallery, shows some 40 works, mainly watercolours and drawings, from 1969–1982. The works exhibited come from both the Ateneum’s own collection and private collections. Works owned by artist and architect Stuart Wrede, Olli Lyytikäinen’s friend, form an important part of the exhibition. These works will be deposited to the Ateneum collection in conjunction with the exhibition. In addition to works by Lyytikäinen, the exhibition presents Hannele Rantala’s photographs of the artist. The exhibition is curated by the director of the Ateneum Art Museum, Marja Sakari, and the chief curator, Sointu Fritze.

Within the Finnish National Gallery, Olli Lyytikäinen’s works are currently part of the Ateneum collection. The chronological dividing line between the Ateneum collection and the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma was moved forward at the beginning of 2019. The Ateneum collection now includes works by artists who started their careers in the 1960s.

Lyytikäinen’s works display a mysterious, mythical dimension

As an artist, Olli Lyytikäinen was ahead of his time. His works were based on the classical values of the visual arts: drawing and mastery of form. At the same time, as early as the 1970s, his works reflected the spirit of the art of the 1980s, which was characterised by an increasing shift from a world of great ideas towards individuality and diversity of views.

Lyytikäinen’s art evolved constantly during his short career. The early imaginary compositions involving people were followed by a series of images of Africa. After this, his images were dominated by insightful and ironic observations of the environment. In the 1980s, his images became more expressive, while retaining their playfulness and perceptiveness. Lyytikäinen’s images both reveal and conceal at the same time, and they always seem to display a mysterious, mythical dimension.

In 1979, a fire in Lyytikäinen’s studio destroyed hundreds of works, which left a deep wound in his delicate artist’s soul. Lyytikäinen possessed immense creative power: in less than twenty years, he produced a couple of thousand works of art. However, for all his creativity, he also had a self-destructive streak.

Lyytikäinen, who died at the early age of 37, has, among his contemporaries, taken on an almost mythical sheen as a modern Finnish artistic genius.

Events related to the exhibition

Admission is included in the museum entrance fee, or with a Museum Card or a Friends of the Ateneum membership card.

Sat 12 Oct, 12:30–15:00
Hommage à Olli Lyytikäinen
Ateneum Hall. Screenings of the films Tuhatkasvoinen sankari (‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’), a documentary on Olli Lyytikäinen and his art (1990), and Olli Lyytikäinen, it’s all yours (2000). In Finnish. The screenings will be followed by a discussion on the art and life of Olli Lyytikäinen. The discussion will be moderated by the director of the Ateneum Art Museum, Marja Sakari.

Wed 30 Oct, 17:00–18:00
A guided tour of the Olli Lyytikäinen exhibition
Olli Lyytikäinen’s friend, artist Jan Olof Mallander will discuss Lyytikäinen’s art in the exhibition gallery next to his exhibited works, 2nd floor. In Finnish.

Read more about Olli Lyytikäinen’s exhibition

Image: Olli Lyytikäinen: Albatross in the Rye (1979). Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen.