Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classics

Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

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 contemporary artists. In the exhibition, the original works are referenced, for example, through replicas, prints, plaster casts and abundant archive materials. It was through these that the Finnish audience became acquainted with the classics during a time when travel was a privilege of the few.


The exhibition explores what constitutes the visual DNA of Western art. Certain images are reproduced in our time in countless different forms, but do we know where they originally came from? The history of art, as it is being told today, is closely linked with the institution of the modern museum, which emerged in the 19th century. Key representatives of such institutions, in both the exhibition and the accompanying publication, are the Altes Museum in Berlin, the Glyptothek in Munich, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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 and Dinos Chapman, Mat Collishaw, Nancy Fouts, Mark Karasick, Jeff Koons, Joseph Kosuth, Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, Heikki Marila, Sara Masüger, Jarmo Mäkilä, Aurora Reinhard, Jenny Saville, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Gavin Turk and Koen Vanmechelen.

The photographic artist Ola Kolehmainen’s new series of works, MUSEVM, 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.

Before coming to the Ateneum, the exhibition will be shown at the Nationalmuseum from 20 February to 17 May 2020. The chief curators for both exhibitions are the director general of Nationalmuseum in Sweden, Susanna Pettersson, and the London art historian James Putnam. Co-curators for the Ateneum exhibition will be the museum director Marja Sakari and the chief curator Sointu Fritze.


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Press releases

The Finnish National Gallery closes Ateneum Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and Sinebrychoff Art Museum to stop the spread of the coronavirus

  The three museums will be closed for public as of 17 March 2020. The Finnish National Gallery follows the guidelines of the Finnish Government given on 16 March 2020, and the subsequent decisions made on 17 March 2020, in order to stop the…

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