Finland Exhibitions. Ateneum Art Museum – contemporary works inspired by Old Masters, opening June 2020

L: Medusa Rondanini, University of Helsinki. Photo: Timo Huvilinna, Helsinki University Museum

Ateneum Art Museum/Finnish National Gallery presents, Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classics, a group exhibition of renowned international contemporary artists who have created works in direct response to iconic imagery of European Old Masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Rembrandt.

The exhibition will include works such as a series of etchings by Jake and Dinos Chapman inspired by Francisco de Goya’s Disasters of War, Mat Collishaw’s photograph series Last Meal on Death Row resembling 17th-century still-life paintings and photographic tondos by Yinka Shonibare CBE of Medusa based on Caravaggio’s portrait in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. As well as Jenny Saville’s Black Mass (after Leonardo) inspired by Leonardo’s sketch for the Burlington House Cartoon, the video work, Still Life, by Sam Taylor-Johnson OBE of decomposing fruit and Gavin Turk’s waxwork recreation of Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 painting Death of Marat.

Among many others, these contemporary pieces will be presented alongside references to the original classical works that inspired them in the form of replicas, prints, plaster casts and abundant archival materials.

R: Yinka Shonibare CBE, Medusa West, 2015, Digital chromogenic print, bespoke wood frame

Existing today as Finnish masterpieces in their own right, classical reinterpretations of European works by Adolf von Becker, Magnus Enckell, Helene Schjerfbeck and Venny Soldan-Brofeldt will be on display throughout the exhibition and sit alongside the work of the contemporary artists. Historically, it was through the creation of such replicas by Finnish artists that Finnish audiences, who were unable to travel, first became acquainted with the work of classical Old Masters.

The exhibition delves into the visual DNA of Western art, reflecting on the origins of imagery that has been repeated countlessly throughout history. National museums remain key agents in housing the history of art and this exhibition will explore how these collections visually inform and impact art history for a contemporary audience. Contemporary Finnish photographer Ola Kolehmainen’s new series of works entitled MUSEVM especially commissioned for this exhibition, highlights some of the most important museums in Europe and is central to this theme.

The key curatorial team consists of London-based art historian James Putnam, director general of Nationalmuseum in Sweden, Susanna Pettersson, Ateneum’s director Marja Sakari and chief curator Sointu Fritze. Before opening at Ateneum, the exhibition will be shown at the Nationalmuseum, Sweden from 20 February to 17 May 2020.