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News · Europe · finland · Helsinki

City News, July 2016

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City News, July 2016

Many things are not as they might initially seem, and this is particularly true at Helsinki’s Esplanadi Park, where 20 tree trunks have been wrapped in a red-and-white polka dot fabric. The colourful installation by famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama reminds one of psychedelic fly agaric mushrooms and will be on display until the month of October. Born in 1929, Kusama is an extravagant contemporary artist and has never hidden the fact that art is a way for her to combat her own inner demons.

“I transform my hallucinations and obsessions into sculptures and paintings,” she says. After experiencing psychiatric problems, Kusama voluntarily admitted herself to a mental hospital in Tokyo 1977, where she has lived ever since, while passionately pursuing her artistic endeavours. Her trademark is polka dots, which she applies in all colours through various media. According to Kusama, individual people, the Earth, the Sun and the Moon are each just small dots in the vast expanse of space, and together they all make up the universe. Her own life is also like an insignificant dot, lost among many thousands of others.

Foto: City News, July 2016
Narcissus Garden, 2016. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo: HAM / Maija Toivanen

Another installation by Kusama is made of 1,000 mirror-surfaced steel spheres and can be viewed in the Palm Room of Helsinki’s Winter Garden (Talvipuutarha) until September 4. Symbolically named the Narcissus Garden, it is devoted to the Greek mythological youth who fell in love with his own reflection and to countless other individuals who have been obsessed with their self-image over the generations. The work was first exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1966 and has continued to be displayed around the world in modified versions.

Both of Kusama’s temporary installations in the Finnish capital are a prelude to a comprehensive retrospective of her works, which will be displayed at the Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) in October (hamhelsinki.fi).

Those who are fond of Scandinavian design, for their part, should check out the Samuji House (Erottajankatu 9; samuji.com), the new home of the well-known Finnish Samuji design studio. Spread out across two floors, it showcases Sumuji fashion and interior design products. Samuji propounds a philosophy of sustainable or long-term design, with the premise that it is simply foolish and irresponsible to change one’s wardrobe and interior decorations simply to be in line with continually changing fashion trends.

Foto: City News, July 2016
Bier Bier

Another ode to sustainable design can be found not far away at the recently opened Bier Bier beer bar (Erottajankatu 13; bier-bier.fi). Its interior was created by one of Finland’s best-known designers, Joanna Laajisto, who also designed the Story restaurant interior in the Old Market Hall. The historical Art Nouveau building in which the bar is located is being preserved by the Finnish National Board of Antiquities. Thus, the original interior of the bar’s three rooms has been faithfully restored, including the ceramic tile wood stoves, ceiling decorations and wooden floors. The space’s colour palette conjures up distant associations with an English pub that bears distinct elements of Nordic design, with dark wood, brass details, leather chairs and contemporary artworks on the walls all making for elegant and cosy premises. And although beer is obviously the drink of choice at this bar, those who don’t fancy that bitter fermented beverage can have a cup of tea or a glass of wine instead.

Image: Yayoi Kusama: Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees, 2016 (installation view from Helsinki). Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/ Singapore; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo: HAM / Maija Toivanen

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