Collection Kakkonen, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition Centre WeeGee, 2022. © Ari Karttunen / EMMA


Opening on 10th November 2022, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art unveils its largest project to date: a new 1000m² exhibition space dedicated to Collection Kakkonen. Bridging the gap between art and design, Collection Kakkonen has been brought together over the course of 35 years by prominent businessman and collector Kyösti Kakkonen, subsequently gaining recognition as the most significant collection of unique and limited-edition Finnish glass and ceramics in the world.

Collection Kakkonen will be introduced to the media on Tuesday, 8 November, at 10 am at EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art. You can follow the streaming of the event on Zoom via this link. In Finnish.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Kyösti Kakkonen, EMMA and the City of Espoo and it has been curated by EMMA's curator Aura Vilkuna. Design classics and works by some of the most important artists and designers from the golden age of Finnish design (1930s–60s) to today will be exhibited alongside next generation figures, creating an unparalleled insight into the story of Finnish craftsmanship. The exhibition architecture has been designed by design studio Aivan.

Helmi Riitahuhta (left), Alma Jantunen (right). Collection Kakkonen, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition Centre WeeGee, 2022. © Ari Karttunen / EMMA

Collection Kakkonen features works by Alvar Aalto, Jasmin Anoschkin, Arttu Brummer, Rut Bryk, Alfred William Finch, Kaj Franck, Liisa Hallamaa, Annikki Hovisaari, Friedl Holzer-Kjellberg, Alma Jantunen, Birger Kaipiainen, Joonas Laakso, Tyra Lundgren, Aino Marsio-Aalto, Francesca Mascitti Lindh, Toini Muona, Gunnel Nyman, Aimo Okkolin, Johannes Rantasalo, Heini Riitahuhta, Kristina Riska, Yrjö Rosola, Kyllikki Salmenhaara, Antti Salmenlinna, Markku Salo, Timo Sarpaneva, Michael Schilkin, Aune Siimes, Kim Simonsson, Nanny Still, Gerda Thesleff, Raija Tuumi, Oiva Toikka, Kati Tuominen-Niittylä, Helena Tynell and Tapio Wirkkala.

Kyösti Kakkonen began gathering the collection in 1988. Following the death of ceramist Toini Muona, he acquired her entire surviving oeuvre, marking the start of his love affair with Finnish design. Beginning with The Story of the Collection, the exhibition is divided into thematic displays which are drawn from, and inspired by, the works on show. In Art and Design, parallels, rather than distinctions, between these two fields are brought to light. For instance, Gerda Thesleff's ceramic dish (1922), illustrated with an intricate, hand-painted landscape, can be viewed as both design object and artwork. Touching Beauty reviews changing tastes and fashions, whilst Molten Glass, Fired Clay observes the works through a more technical lens, reviewing their different materials, how they are made, and the history of these techniques.

Oiva Toikka, Glass Forest, 2003. Collection Kakkonen, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition Centre WeeGee, 2022. © Ari Karttunen / EMMA

Forms of Power showcases works which have served as instruments of power, exploring how artists wield influence through the subject matter of their art. Emphasising these evocative pieces as products of their historical context, EMMA invites viewers to take a critical and contemporary look at the challenging imagery and symbolism they illustrate. In addition, the exhibition explores how the power of art and design was harnessed in building Finnish national identity – most specifically after the 1940s, when a war-impoverished nation gained new international visibility with its technical and artistic prowess.  

Art and design in post-war Finland is similarly explored in Art for Every Home, when ceramic and glassware experienced a rapid rise in popularity. Due to the newfound value of home life, increased social equality, and boom in Finnish design, such objects instantly became design classics and were welcomed as emblems of a new, modern age. Works such as Alvar Aalto's Savoy Vases (1937) ask us to question why certain pieces have achieved iconic status, what they mean to us, and what might be deemed a future 'classic'. 

Collection Kakkonen includes more than 10,000 items, of which 1,300 works are lent to EMMA in a long-term co-operation agreement with specific highlights being exhibited regularly. For instance, this November, glass artist and designer Markku Salo's work Gazebo (1990/2022) invites visitors to step into an intricate glass hut designed with organisms and animals across its surface, whilst his Amazonas (1991/2022) voices a sculptural commentary on the decimation of Amazonian rainforests.

Toini Muona, vases, 1940s–1950s. Collection Kakkonen, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition Centre WeeGee, 2022. © Ari Karttunen / EMMA

The opening of Collection Kakkonen's exhibition space coincides with the 50th anniversary of the City of Espoo, an area steeped in design and architectural tradition, situated 30 minutes from the country's capital, Helsinki. The opening of the exhibition plays a remarkable role in the jubilee of the City of Espoo. Located in Espoo's WeeGee Exhibition Centre – a 1960s brutalist complex designed by esteemed Finnish architect Aarno Ruusuvuori – the new exhibition space pays homage to Ruusuvuori through a concrete interior which echoes his Modernist vision. Elements of Finnish wood will be interwoven into the exhibition design, gesturing to the significant role nature has played as both an inspiration for the works and the origin of their raw materials.

The enduring appeal of glass art and ceramics rests upon a legacy of skills and knowledge passed down through generations. The artists featured in Collection Kakkonen draw inspiration from both international trends and local traditions, revealing the history of 20th and 21st century Finnish design, while mirroring the best of boundary-pushing design from across the world.

EMMA's Executive Director, Pilvi Kalhama, expands: "As a collector, Kyösti Kakkonen has carried out a unique cultural deed over decades. The opening of Collection Kakkonen will bring the largest collection of Finnish glass and ceramic art on display at EMMA and further strengthen our position as a presenter of design. The exhibition will offer EMMA's visitors a unique opportunity to explore the many perspectives on the story of Finnish design.''

Collector Kyösti Kakkonen says: "The WeeGee building offers an excellent setting for displaying my collection of glass and ceramic design. What started as a young man's dream nearly forty years ago has now grown in scale to be Finland's largest private art collection of its kind. The collection has seen various international design exhibitions around the world – most recently in Japan and in Germany - but I am more than delighted to see the works in Finland, housed in a bespoke space at EMMA. Here, the Finnish artists can get their works – most of them unique – closer to nature, the very source of their inspiration. I dare say that my collection of glass and ceramics will certainly inspire other artists, collectors, and, above all, glass and ceramic design lovers, thus further enhancing Finland's reputation as the epicenter of design.''

Birger Kaipiainen, Bead Bird (Curlew), 1960. Collection Kakkonen, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition Centre WeeGee, 2022. © Ari Karttunen / EMMA


Source: Espoo Museum of Modern Art