The Silent Beauty – Nordic and East-Asian Interaction exhibition delves into the simplified aesthetic that connects the Nordic countries and East Asia, especially in the art of the late 1950s and the early 1960s. The art of these two regions shares the idea of everyday beauty and a connection with nature. The exhibition concept has been created by the curators of the Ateneum exhibition, the curator Anne-Maria Pennonen and the chief curator Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff. The version to be staged in Stockholm is curated by the museum director at Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde, Karin Sidén.
The Silent Beauty exhibition juxtaposes visual art, ceramics, textile art and architecture from Finnish, Swedish, Danish and Japanese collections. The works display a simplified and dynamic aesthetic: geometric shapes, sophisticated colours, and an appreciation of materials link the pieces being exhibited. The exhibits include beautiful and functional everyday objects, such as sophisticated Asian ceramics and kimonos. The paintings, drawings and prints included in the exhibition feature abstract themes, as well as landscapes and still lifes.
Silent Beauty is a continuation of the exhibition Japanomania in the Nordic Countries 1875–1918, which was shown at the Ateneum in the spring of 2016. The exhibition prompted an examination of how the phenomenon continued in the 20th century, and what new forms it took. Where does the simplified Nordic aesthetic come from, and how is it connected to the visual arts? Silent Beauty specifically explores the two-way interaction between the cultures: East Asian art was also influenced by the Nordic aesthetic. Nordic artists took influences from China and Korea, as well as Japan.
The artists featured in the exhibition include Rune Jansson, Aimo Kanerva, Carl Kylberg, Ahti Lavonen, Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, Kyllikki Salmenhaara, Alfred William Finch, Key Sato, Helene Schjerfbeck, Jaakko Sievänen, Erik Granfelt and Erkki Heikkilä. The exhibition presents a large number of works from Japan, including from the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art, Hayama. Works are on loan from, for example, the Design Museum in Helsinki, the Gothenburg Museum of Art and the Moderna Museet in Sweden, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.
The exhibition at Ateneum was accompanied by a publication, in Finnish, Swedish and English, produced by the Ateneum.