Amos Rex: a new cultural powerhouse
Mika Huisman
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Amos Rex: a new cultural powerhouse for Helsinki

JKMM Architects as Architects

The Latest addition to Helsinki’s cultural quarter opens with “teamLab: Massless” a major international exhibition by the Tokyo-based art collective teamLab filling its 2,200 sqm gallery space with digital art.

Finland’s capital Helsinki has gained a major new cultural institution and a striking new public space with the completion of Amos Rex. The art museum opens after a fiveyear, €50 million project designed by architecture firm JKMM, which has seen the refurbishment of the landmark 1930’s Lasipalatsi building in Central Helsinki. At the heart of the museum, 13,000 cubic metres of rock has been excavated to create a new 2,200 sqm world-class flexible gallery space topped with a series of domes and skylights that form the new undulating landscape of the Lasipalatsi Square.

Amos Rex’s exhibition programme extends from the newest, often experimental, contemporary art to 20th-century Modernism and ancient cultures. Amos Rex aims to present captivating and ambitious art refreshingly and exuberantly. The goal is for the past, present and future to produce unique experiences and surprising encounters beneath and above ground, and on the screen.

Amos Rex opens with Massless, an exhibition by the Tokyo-based digital art collective teamLab, which will run until 6 January 2019. In the early half of 2019, Amos Rex will present a retrospective of the Dutch art collective Studio Drift as well as Rene Magritte: Life Line, the first major exhibition of this pioneer of the surrealist movement in Finland. These exhibitions will run in parallel from 8 February to 19 May.

Kai Kartio, Director of Amos Rex, said:

“The opening of Amos Rex is one of the biggest events to occur in the cultural life of Helsinki for a generation and will offer unrivalled facilities for the display of art, exhibitions, film and performance.

Art used to be something you hung on the wall and went respectfully to contemplate. Today art is increasingly interactive and conversational. It is something people make and experience together. Contemporary art finds all the time new forms and new media and this is exemplified in the work of our first artistic contributor, teamLab. teamLab’s immersive and participatory digital artwork is a fantastic way to demonstrate the expressive possibilities opened up to us by our new galleries.”

Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki said:

"The City of Helsinki is delighted to partner with Amos Rex to create this world-class cultural facility located right in the heart of Helsinki city centre. The refurbishment of the 1930’s landmark together with the new museum extension are remarkable additions to our urban culture.

Helsinki’s goal is to champion world-class culture, arts and education opportunities for all of our citizens and people visiting our city. Access to the most exciting examples of cultural production from around the world allows us to grow our minds beyond the confines of everyday experience, giving our citizens a global outlook, educating and entertaining in equal measure.”

Asmo Jaaksi, Founding Partner of JKMM said:

“Integrating one of Finland’s architecturally pioneering 1930s buildings - Lasipalatsi - as part of the Amos Rex project has been a moving experience. By adding a bold new layer to Lasipalatsi, we feel we are connecting past with present. We would like this to come across as a seamless extension as well as an exciting museum space very much of its time”; The square adjacent to Lasipalatsi is one of the most important public spaces in Helsinki. We hope the newly landscaped Lasipalatsi Square with its gently curving domes will be received as a welcome addition to Helsinki’s urban culture; a place everyone and anyone in the city can feel is their own.”

Toshiyuki Inoko, Founder of teamLab said:

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to participate in the inaugural exhibition at Amos Rex. teamLab aims to explore a new relationship between humans and the world, and between people and nature through art. Digital technology has allowed art to liberate itself from the physical and transcend boundaries, and we believe digital art can turn the relationship between people in the same space into a positive experience.

“Our work Vortex of Light Particles, which we are creating especially for this occasion, will be the largest installation in the exhibition. We will create a digital simulation of water pouring upward in reversed gravity towards the uniquely and beautifully domed ceiling, flowing from this underground space to the skylight above. The trajectories of these simulated water particles will form a series of lines, which will in turn create waterfalls and vortex all along the walls and ceiling of this space. We hope everyone in Finland is as excited as we are to experience this piece.”

Amos Rex is the latest addition to the buzzing cultural quarter of Helsinki, which already includes the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki Music Centre, Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall, the National Museum of Finland, the Finnish Museum of Natural History, the Ateneum Museum, Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) and the soon-to be completed Oodi Central Library.

The centrepiece of the new museum is a 2,200 sqm gallery space created beneath the Lasipalatsi square which will offer the curators of Amos Rex the opportunity to accommodate large scale works of art and performance, and to stage exhibitions, installations and performance in a hugely flexible space with a high degree of technical control.

Design Statement

Amos Rex has its origins in the Amos Anderson Art Museum, which since 1965 has been Helsinki’s leading private museum. To meet changes in the practice and display of contemporary art in the 21st Century, the trustees of the Amos Anderson Art Museum concluded that a new venue would be better suited for providing new art experiences than the museum’s existing accommodation in converted newspaper offices. The nearby Lasipalatsi building, one of Finland’s best-preserved examples of 1930s functionalist architecture was identified as a new home for the museum. The Lasipalatsi has been comprehensively refurbished as part of the project, with special care given to preserve original features that include the first external neon lighting in Finland. Detailed research from historic sources as well as analysis of material on-site, conducted in partnership with the Helsinki City Museum, allowed JKMM to recreate a palette of materials and colours that is true to the original design.

Bio Rex, the 590 seat cinema within the Lasipalatsi building has been restored to its 1930s glory and incorporated into the new institution, giving half of its name to create the Amos Rex identity. From the foyer of the refurbished Lasipalatsi, visitors descend a staircase past a picture window that affords views over the public square, into the basement galleries. The roof of the new gallery is formed by a series of domes with angled roof lights that frame views of the surrounding buildings and allow exhibitions to be lit with natural light if the curators choose. The shape of the domes is expressed in the topography of the newly landscaped public square which sits above the galleries, as a series of gently rolling forms clad in concrete tiles.

The existing restaurants and shops within the Lasipalatsi will continue to trade and will help contribute to the life and activity of the public square, which is a focal point for the social life of Helsinki city centre and one of the most important public spaces in the shopping and entertainment district. The square also provides an opportunity for Amos Rex to create a programme of outdoor events to support its gallery shows. The gallery will be supported by world-class technical and storage spaces in an additional basement storey beneath the galleries, giving Amos Rex the necessary facilities to loan artefacts from other institutions internationally.

The opening exhibition teamLab: Massless features five digital artworks: four fully immersive spaces created using digital projection, including a new work making its debut at Amos Rex, and an LCD screen-based display. The exhibition will be one of the largest completed by the collective outside Japan and the first teamLab exhibition in the Nordic region. Entry to Amos Rex will be free for everybody under the age of 18 and an art education workshop dedicated to children and youngsters will occupy space alongside the main gallery. Visitors between the ages of 18 and 30 will pay a special reduced entry fee of €5.

Amos Rex was constructed through a joint venture between the City of Helsinki and the Föreningen Konstsamfundet, an arts foundation set up as the bequest of the philanthropist Amos Anderson. Föreningen Konstsamfundet operated the Amos Anderson Art Museum and has provided all the funding for the new Amos Rex. The foundation will operate Amos Rex as a private institution.

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