Join us for a visit to Finland’s most renowned art museum with a collection that spans from the 18th century to Modernism with close to thirty thousand national treasures.
The Neo-Renaissance building of the National Gallery, Ateneum opposite of the Helsinki Central Railway Station was designed by Theodor Höijer and completed in 1887 with a grand opening on 13 October 1888. The sculptural decorations on the main façade of the museum tell a story about equality and harmony between the visual and applied arts - “Cocordia res parvae crescunt", small things flourish by concord, being the beginning of a phrase that continues discordia maximae dilabuntur - discord will destroy great things. Apparently, the phrase refers to the long-lasting battle of the Finnish art circles to establish the museum.
In between the second-floor window arches, there are sixteen relief portraits by Ville Vallgren depicting both Finnish and world class painters: Werner Holmberg, Robert Wilhelm Ekman, Alexander Lauréus, Johan Tobias Sergel, Rembrandt van Rijn, Bertel Thorvaldsen, Peter Paul Rubens, Michelangelo Buonnaroti on the left, and on the right Erwin von Steinbach, Benvenuto Cellini, Jules Hardouin Mansart, Bernard Palissy, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Carl Ludvig Engel and Wilhelm Scholander.
Professor of aesthetics, Carl Gustaf Estlander had a vision of a single house of the visual and applied arts and initially, Ateneum also housed the collection and drawing school of the Finnish Art Society, as well as the collection and school of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design. The art schools were among the most modern in Europe as already from the outset, the doors were open to both female and male students.
The Finnish Art Society was established on 27 January 1846. Its collections grew through donations throughout the 19th century leading eventually to the establishment of the Fine Arts Academy in 1939. Since 1991, the Ateneum has served exclusively as an art museum. Today, Ateneum is the main museum of the Finnish National Gallery comprising, in addition to Ateneum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum (see our reviews!)
The museum is fully accessible with an entrance with a lift located on the back (Ateneuminkuja) side of the museum. The lift to the upper floors is located near the cloakroom. The loos, shop and café in the ground floor are all wheelchair-accessible.
After your museum tour, check Ateneum Bistro that offers season’s dishes and sweet and salty bits to enjoy with coffee or tea.
The museum shop features a wide range of souvenirs and products related to Ateneum’s collections and exhibitions as well as books, cards, and gifts. Each purchase supports the Ateneum, so be generous!
Ateneum Art Museum
Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki