Discover Living Art At The Amos Rex Museum

Discover Living Art At The Amos Rex Museum

Amos Rex is an underground art museum located in Helsinki, Finland. / Photo by: Aija Lehtonen via Shutterstock


Art is alive.

At the Amos Rex private art museum, that short sentence is taken very seriously. Entrenched in an underground space situated in Helsinki, Finland, the Amos Rex museum is home to a massive collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Finnish art of the late local arts patron and newspaper publisher Amos Anderson, so described by an article in Artforum.

Located in the Lasipalatsi (glass palace), a renovated 1930s building, this spectacular underground museum sits below a mall that was mainly used for entertainment and retail purposes, which, incidentally, was an equally brilliant work of three Finnish architectural students: Viljo Revell, Heimo Riihimaki, and Niilo Kokko for the 1940 Helsinki Olympics.

Unfortunately, the Olympic event was subsequently postponed due to the second world war. Now, it serves as the entrance to the 23,350-square-foot museum pocketed beneath it and promised various subterranean galleries, as well as restaurants and even cinemas. Housed under “two undulating domed roofs,” the museum’s installations were created with vibrant color, movement, and sound in mind to promote a powerful and calming experience.

Before it became a mall, however, the Lasipalatsi had simply been abandoned through the years, although it was renovated in the 1990s, to no avail. Föreningen Konstsamfundet, a private association founded by Anderson bought a large portion of the building and decided to put up a museum there, this according to Apollo Magazine.

Inside: The “Massless”

If someone decided to set up the video game Tetris Effect as an art installation on LED screens and sprinkled it with a healthy amount of steroids, this unique presentation in the Amos Rex would be the result. It’s almost like psychedelia, but is so much more than that. According to AV Interactive, this is the museum’s already powerful first exhibition and it’s called “Massless.”

“Massless” covers the entirety of one wall, and towers above anyone who enters so that visitors are “engulfed by glorious projection mapping and soundscapes, as they become hypnotized by an iridescent wave of water particles and interact with surfaces that explode with color.”

Kai Kartio, the museum’s director, said the decision to swath the entire ceiling with what is technically living art was made in order for them to take advantage of the space so generously afforded by the area. It also serves as the gateway to more art of different types, specifically those that go beyond painting and sculptures.

There’s nothing wrong with those, of course. It’s just that in recent times most people are now making art out of the most mundane things, all while keeping in mind their vision and their environment—two things that the museum is clearly well-versed on.

To make this first installation possible, Kartio hired the talents of teamLab, a Tokyo-based art collective made up of 500 people who are all dedicated to making the best kind of immersive art they can. All are creative specialists—artists, programmers, animators, and architects—who were more than happy to transform Kartio’s vision into reality while taking advantage of the environment, which is exactly what immersive art is.

Meanwhile, technical specialist Jorma Saarikko of Pro Av Art Oy was also on the project as he provided the company with the newest and most advanced tech they could use to fine tune the exhibition.

“This was the role of Pro Av Art Oy, the creative agencies and technology suppliers—to hide equipment whilst making the creative content visible in the most magical way possible,” says Kartio. “We wanted no black boxes in sight.”


The director of Amos Rex, Kai Kartio, hired teamLab for the first exhibition called "Massless" / Photo by: mujiri via Shutterstock


The Inception

How could one person possibly come up with the concept of the Amos Rex museum? Well, Apollo Magazine said it was all thanks to Kartio’s simple realization that this place could never work as a Smithsonian museum, or a Louvre. So how was it to become a museum at all?

What’s more, the Helsinki city plan would not allow for any underground extension to be added to the building. Instead, what the Finnish architecture firm did was to first refurbish the abandoned mall on top and turn it once more into a place of glory with cinemas and restaurants, and then start work on the underground museum itself.

After deciding to dig out a space in the courtyard to place a 2,200-square-metre suite of galleries, the architects then started to furnish the space with concrete domes covered in tessellating grey and light orange tiles fixed with large circular lights.

The resulting design was light and felt less of a stuffy cave and more of an otherworld. The big installation that spanned the ceiling accentuated the interior design’s consideration for the building to be glimpsed from the outside world.

According to Apollo Magazine, “The domes and skylights, if somewhat reminiscent of Teletubbyland, are an effective strategy for making the underground bunker a feature in the city’s urban landscape—allowing museum visitors a glimpse of the outside world. The purpose-built galleries—simple white spaces with as few load-bearing walls as possible—are similarly fit for the purpose: flexible, high-tech, and unobtrusive; they can be completely reconfigured according to the art chosen for display.”