The Ateneum acquires Heikki W. Virolainen’s Ilman impi for its collection

The Ateneum Art Museum has acquired eight new sculptures for its collection during spring 2017. Of the works acquired, the sculptor Heikki W. Virolainen’s (1936–2004) three-metre wooden sculpture Ilman impi (Virgin Daughter of the Ether) (1970) will, from now on, be on permanent display as part of the Stories of Finnish Art exhibition in the Kalevala hall. The sculptures by Helena Pylkkänen (born 1945) and Marjo Lahtinen (born 1944), an important addition to the museum’s collection, will be on show in future exhibitions.

“We have acquired impressive works from powerful sculptors. Sculpture is an amazing form of art, which deserves a more important place in our collection”, says the museum director Susanna Pettersson.

The recently acquired works demonstrate the diversity of sculpture. Between 1964 and 1970, Heikki W. Virolainen created a series of wooden sculptures, themed around the Kalevala epic, painted with strong colours. The ritualistic postures, the bright colours, and the stylised idiom of the works recall primitive art. The previously privately owned Virgin Daughter of the Ether is one of the most important works of this period.

Two works by the sculptor Helena Pylkkänen were acquired for the collection: Moose Warning (1980) and Masculine / Recumbent Torso (1986–1987). The stone sculpture Moose Warning is part of a series of animal heads, for which Pylkkänen has sculpted elk and horse skulls from various materials. The bronze Masculine / Recumbent Torso features a theme that is familiar to us from the art of antiquity.

Five works were acquired from Marjo Lahtinen, who is known for her uncompromising and reduced studies of the human body: Female Torso (1982), Male Torso (1983), Male Torso (undated), Half-figure (1992) and Figure with arms (1996). Lahtinen has been perfecting her artistic expression over more than four decades.

“Helena Pylkkänen and Marjo Lahtinen are both artists whom we want to highlight. Both demonstrate remarkable technical virtuosity in their works. Both artists use the human body as a starting point for their sculptures. Lahtinen’s torsos seem to study ​​man as an idea, whereas Pylkkänen’s works also show the carnality of the human body”, says Pettersson.

The Finnish National Gallery’s collection includes approximately 40,000 works of art. The Ateneum Art Museum has the largest collection of paintings and sculptures in Finland. The works in the Ateneum collection date from the period from the 19th century to the modern age, with works featured by artists who started their careers as late as the 1960s.

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