Art at Helsinki Music Centre

Reijo Hukkanen’s Laulupuut, Kirsi Kaulanen’s Gaia and Antti Immonen’s Black Smoke – sculptures greet visitors at Helsinki Music Centre.


Mother Earth in the Music Centre Ceiling

This sculpture by Kirsi Kaulanen (b. 1969) was named Gaia (2011) after the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth. At 14 metres in length, 10 metres in height, and 2,200 kg in weight, the sculpture in polished stainless steel is visible both inside the Helsinki Music Centre and from outside, in the direction of Mannerheimintie.

Constructed from organic forms, Gaia resembles a saxophone, a horn, a landscape, or a winding shape. It is linked to nature by its flowing form and by the fact that it includes 28 of the 150 currently-endangered Finnish plant species.

The artist has described the dual nature of the work by linking it to a real-life nature experience and to an abstract idea: seeing the work from all directions is like a 360-degree panorama from the top of a mountain. At a more abstract level, the work is a study of concentric forms, familiar to us from mandalas or dripping water.

A fascinating public work of art, Gaia's organic form is emphasized by the reduced architectural language of the building. Depending on the viewing angle, the appearance of the work changes constantly–a fact that is accentuated by the changing lighting design.

Suspended from the Music Centre ceiling, Gaia is a monument opening like a primordial horn or landscape. Moving around inside the building and seeing the work from several angles gives a constantly changing experience for the viewer resembling of a walk in nature. Seen from the outside, the work is connected to the cityscape and the natural environment around the Töölönlahti Bay.

Sculptor Kirsi Kaulanen studied at the Kankaanpää Art Institute and the University of Art and Design, where she graduated with a Master of Arts in 2004. Her works are found in the Helsinki Art Museum and the State of Finland collections. She was awarded first prize in the Helsinki Music Centre art competition in 2010. The competition was arranged and the work commissioned by the State Art Collection.

Juha-Heikki Tihinen, PhD


The passion of being and joie de vivre – Laulupuut (Song Trees) by Reijo Hukkanen (2012)

Artist Reijo Hukkanen (1946) has created his largest public sculpture to date, intentionally combining the realist and the abstract. Laulupuut (Song Trees) is erected in the plaza of Helsinki Music Centre. Combining aluminium and steel, the sculpture measures nearly 13 metres high, 6 metres wide and 9 metres deep. The totem-like work delights visitors with some instantly recognisable themes as well as components which invite deeper analysis.

Joie de vivre and the passion of being are the experiences which Reijo Hukkanen wishes to evoke among people who come to see the Laulupuut sculpture at the Music Centre. The idea for the sculpture was born when Hukkanen arrived home one day and a souvenir depicting an upright whale which he had bought in New York in 1991 caught his eye. The standing fish made an impression on the artist, who had already been working on an idea for the sculpture. This was the inspiration for the basic form of the current piece, and Hukkanen immediately started working on it, drawing inspiration from the Hauen laulu (‘The Song of Pike’, 1928), a poem by Aaro Hellaakoski (1893–1952).

Laulupuut is a totem that greets all visitors and passers-by at the Music Centre. Reijo Hukkanen’s goal is for the sculpture to have an effect on people even if they are not actively looking at it. The form of Laulupuut changed throughout the sculpting process: originally designed with a much wider base, the sculpture now has a more compact and higher form. The sculpture has a section depicting grand piano lids and log piles connected to the upright head of a pike, which Hukkanen has moulded into a more caricatured form since his original proposal. In addition to Hellaakoski’s poem and the pike-bone kantele instrument depicted in the Finnish national epic Kalevala, the artist drew inspiration from the home of the Russian avant-garde architect Konstantin Melnikov (1890–1974).

Laulupuut is a playful monumental sculpture designed to be lighter than its shadows. The artist wanted to create an impressive landmark for the cityscape, referencing the architecture of the Helsinki Music Centre and the scenic heritage of Töölö Bay. The work is an amalgamation of different visual ideas, from grand piano lids to piles of logs – and, of course, the pike head. These different visual ideas trigger a chain of associations which lingers in the visitor’s mind long after seeing the sculpture. Laulupuut is like a cityscape: multidimensional, layered and full of experiences.

Reijo Hukkanen is an Oulu-based artist who studied at the Institute of Industrial Arts in 1967–1971. Combining a variety of different materials in his works, Hukkanen has been featured in several private exhibitions and in general exhibitions in Finland and around the world. His works are featured in all major museum collections in Finland, and his accolades include Ars Fennica nomination in 1994, Helsinki Festival Artist of the Year 1991, and the State Prize for Art in 1987. Laulupuut is his tenth public installation.

Juha-Heikki Tihinen, PhD

The State Art Collection

In addition to Hukkanen’s and Kaulanen’s works, which were specifically created for Helsinki Music Centre, The State Art Collection has loaned some of its pieces to the centre as well.

Antti Immonen’s sculpture Black Smoker (2006) has been placed at the centre’s Sibelius Academy entrance.

Additionally, Kirsi Kivivirta’s, Kari Soinio’s, Susanne Gottberg’s and Maiju Salmenkivi’s works have been placed in the centre’s offices.

Competition 2008-2009

On 5 November 2008, the Committee for the Purchase of Works for the State Art Collection announced an open art competition to receive proposals for art to be placed in the Helsinki Music Centre and its surroundings.

The competition’s first phase was the general idea competition, which produced abundant and versatile results: Nearly 800 proposals from 660 submitters.

The jury selected six proposals to enter the second phase of the competition, which began on 12 June 2009. The selected submitters were to further develop their proposals. The second phase of the competition ended 27 November 2009.

The Committee for the Purchase of Works for the State Art Collection gathered from 4 to 5 December 2009 to decide the competition:

Location 1:Outside

1st place Laulupuut (Song trees), Reijo Hukkanen, Oulu

2nd place Maa pajupillejä soittaa, Tapio Kettunen, Vesilahti

3rd place Unisono, Pekka Kauhanen, Espoo

Location 2:Main lobby

1st place Kaiku (Echo), Kirsi Kaulanen, Porvoo

2nd place Aineen Ääni, Kari Cavén, Helsinki

3rd place Twist and turn, Kari Södö, Oulu

The competition-winning pieces were reviewed as follows:

In Reijo Hukkanen’s Laulupuut, “the monumental, yet gently controlled idiom insightfully utilizes national imagery. His references to Finnish poetry add interesting additional meanings to the piece. The two working methods, casting and cutting, create an interesting dialogue. The transposition between silhouette form and three-dimensionality works fascinatingly on Helsinki Music Centre’s square.”

Kirsi Kaulanen’s Kaiku is “a versatile and compelling piece of modern public art. The reflections and shadows created by the piece’s lighting add an interesting element to the piece and space it is in. The piece’s size, form and position in the space should still be considered.”

The competition proposals were exhibited to the public at the Helsinki City Planning Department’s Laituri exhibition room in January 2010.