BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Finnish Rhapsody

Didrichsen Art Museum – Helsinki, Finland

View from the exhibition hall to the courtyard. Front: Henry Moore, ’The Archer’, 1965; ’Reclining Figure on Pedestal’, 1960. Photo: Rauno Träskelin – © The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
View from the exhibition hall to the courtyard. Front: Henry Moore, ’The Archer’, 1965; ’Reclining Figure on Pedestal’, 1960. Photo: Rauno Träskelin – © The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

Helsinki’s Didrichsen Art Museum grew out of a passion for art. When Marie-Louise and Gunnar Didrichsen added a wing to their sleek, modernist villa – a building designed by the Finnish architect, Viljo Revell – they sought to create a space that would bring the art they loved to future generations of Finns. Since its opening, the gallery’s rich historic holdings have combined with an ambitious programme of temporary exhibitions to create one of the most unique and important art spaces in Finland’s capital.

Front: Eero Hiironen, ’Sculpture ’Island’; ‘Atom Piece’. Photo: Susanna Lehtinen
Front: Eero Hiironen, ’Sculpture ’Island’; ‘Atom Piece’. Photo: Susanna Lehtinen
Veikko Nuutinen, ’Undine’. Photo: Susanna Lehtinen – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Veikko Nuutinen, ’Undine’. Photo: Susanna Lehtinen – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

To reach the museum, one must cross the serene waters of the Laajalahti Bay, and, on a good day, catch the warmth of the sun as it filters through the rank of pines that overlook the clean lines of the Didrichsen’s surfaces. The collection is a mix of local and international, contemporary and heritage works. Legér still-lifes and Giacomettis share space with giants artists from the Finnish pantheon like Eila Hiltunen and Eero Hiironen. As Finnish artists rarely get the kind of sustained attention they deserve outside of their home country, the Didrichsen provides an excellent introduction to a tradition marked by a deep organicism and a fierce commitment to modernity.

Tilla Kekki, ’Mama Europa and Mama Africa’
Tilla Kekki, ’Mama Europa and Mama Africa’
Eila Hiltunen, ’Turbulence’. Photo: Eeva Hytönen
Eila Hiltunen, ’Turbulence’. Photo: Eeva Hytönen

One of the true highlights of a trip to the Didrichsen is its collection of pre-Columbian art. These works are housed in the lower level of the gallery, a low-slung room with crepuscular lighting that creates a sense of reverence and awe. There is something incongruous about standing face to face with figures from Mesoamerica in the middle of a modernist art space in Helsinki, but the feeling of cultural vertigo is underwritten by an exquisite eye for detail and curatorial integrity. Particularly entrancing is a clay figure from the Olmec culture, the first known civilisation to emerge in the territory of contemporary Mexico, depicting a double-faced human head. The faces converge on a central eye in ways that the European viewer may, perhaps, associate with the aesthetics of surrealism, but, of course, the Olmecs reached their cultural zenith more than 1 000 years before the Common Era. To look into the three eyes of the head is to confront a human heritage that is unreachably distant yet also somehow palpable and immediate.

Mark Rothko, Gray White Purple’, 1960. Photo: Jussi Pakkala – © Kate Rothko-Prizel & Christopher Rothko / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Mark Rothko, Gray White Purple’, 1960. Photo: Jussi Pakkala – © Kate Rothko-Prizel & Christopher Rothko / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Pablo Picasso, ’Le Peintre au Travail’, 1964. Photo: Jussi Pakkala – © Succession Picasso / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Pablo Picasso, ’Le Peintre au Travail’, 1964. Photo: Jussi Pakkala – © Succession Picasso / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Fernand Léger, ’Nature Morte à la Coupe’, 1948. Photo: Jussi Pakkala – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Fernand Léger, ’Nature Morte à la Coupe’, 1948. Photo: Jussi Pakkala – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Niki de Saint Phalle, ’Serpent Goddess’, 1982. Photo: Jussi Pakkala – © Niki Charitable Art Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Niki de Saint Phalle, ’Serpent Goddess’, 1982. Photo: Jussi Pakkala – © Niki Charitable Art Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

The museum is also home to the only public sculpture park in Helsinki. The park brings together work by international icons of modernist sculpture like Henry Moore as well as by pioneering Finnish artists like Laila Pullinen and contemporary Finns including Eero Hiironen. The park strikes a meditative balance between solitude and human presence. As you walk among the wildflowers and trees, the sculptures feel less like an imposition on nature than an extension of the surrounding ecology. Looking out over the sea by the pier that defines the boundaries of both the garden and the island there is a pervasive sense of both the isolation of the location, but also of a potential to reach out and make contact with the wider world. The Didrichsen’s interiors and holdings demonstrate how profound that connection has been, and how enduring.

William Kherbek is the writer of the novel Ecology of Secrets (2013, Arcadia Missa) and the forthcoming UltraLife (2016, Arcadia Missa). His art journalism has appeared in a number of publications in the UK, US, Germany, Switzerland and Romania.

All images courtesy Didrichsen Art Museum, Helsinki

More Information on Didrichsen Art Museum

Collections (107)

West Collection

Key names in international art meet new voices

Rubell Museum

Curator Joey Lico teams up with artist Alexis Diaz to visit the mighty Rubell Museum in Miami

Vorres Museum

3 000 years of Greek history and postwar Greek art

Alexander Ramselaar Collection

A townhouse of young talent from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and around the world

Quetzal Art Centre

Contemporary art on a winery in the picturesque Alentejo region

Sammlung Wemhöner

A spontaneous exhibition set up in the now empty ballroom, before opening in 2023 as the collection's new home

Museum Liaunig

Nuriel Molcho and Francesca Gavin travel out of Vienna to hillside Carinthia, to meet with Peter Liaunig

Stella Art Foundation

An exhibition space for contemporary Russian art

Frissiras Museum

3 500 contemporary figurative paintings

Arario Museum in Space

Wide-ranging collection of Korean and Western art by the country’s leading collector and gallerist

Fondazione Brodbeck

Contemporary art in a post-industrial complex—in the shadow of a volcano

Peyrassol—Parc de Sculptures

A sculpture park on a centuries-old vineyard in Provence

Alexander Tutsek-Stiftung

A location for contemporary glass and photography

Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat

Argentina's wealthiest woman presents six centuries of art-treasure collecting

Rossini Art Site (RAS)

Large-scale sculpture in a landscape park

Castello di Ama per l’Arte Contemporanea

Site-specific installations for a dual passion: art and wine

Kasteel Wijlre Estate

Art from the 1960s to the present in a modern pavilion

Fundació Vila Casas

Three buildings, three points of focus: painting, sculpture and photography

Gibbs Farm

A sculpture park in XXL format with monumental art in the grandness of nature

Kloster Schoenthal

Nature-inspired sculptures in a pristine landscape

Pinchuk Art Centre

Blue-chip contemporary in the first private museum in the former USSR

Museo James Turrell — The Hess Art Collection, Colomé

Turrell’s largest Skyspace and additional light rooms in breathtaking surroundings


An extensive private collection of Swiss contemporary art of the last fifty years

Mathaf—Arab Museum of Modern Art

A Royal Collection Spanning 200 Years of Arab Art – Doha, Qatar

Sara Piccinini

Senior Coordinator, Collezione Maramotti - Reggio Emilia, Italy

Reflection and Speculation

Sammlung von Kelterborn – Frankfurt, Germany


DJ Cassy and Francesca Gavin meet with collectors Venke and Rolf A. Hoff in Henningsvær, Norway

Deichtorhallen Hamburg – Sammlung Falckenberg

Positions of social criticism in German and American contemporary art – Hamburg, Germany

The Walther Collection

Inside and Outside the Frame – Neu Ulm, Germany

Peter Ibsen Collection

Minimalist Works That Hone Your Sense for Detail – Copenhagen, Denmark

Initiating Dialogues

Sammlung Hoffmann – Berlin, Germany

The Mallin Collection & Buckhorn Sculpture Park

Andrea Denver and Francesca Gavin meet with collectors Sherry and Joel Mallin in Upstate New York

The Agah Uğur Collection

One of the Largest Video Art Collections in Istanbul, Turkey

KA Modern and Contemporary Art Space

900 Square Meters Dedicated to Lebanon’s Most Significant Artists – Beirut, Lebanon

Art About Beauty and Infirmity

Collezione De Iorio – Trento, Italy

Living Collection

Gary Yeh and Francesca Gavin meet with architect and collector William Lim in Hong Kong

Early Passions

Z Collection – Hong Kong, China

Infinite Interiors

Philara Collection – Dusseldorf, Germany

Papko Art Collection

Works of Turkish Modernism at the legendary Ralli Apartment in Istanbul

Risky Business

Astrup Fearnley Museet – Oslo, Norway

Something Special, Something Sacred

The Goss-Michael Foundation – Dallas, United States of America

JAHM – Justin Art House Museum

Digital and Abstract Art — Melbourne, Australia

A More Democratic Art

MACBA – Museum of Contemporary Art of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Embracing the Accidental

Trajković Collection – Belgrade, Serbia

Galila's P.O.C.

A Collection Made up of Thematic Collections – Brussels, Belgium

Establishing Roots and Creating Links

The Ovidiu Șandor Collection – Timișoara, Romania

Instituto Figueiredo Ferraz

Abstract painting and concept art in Brazil’s interior – São Paulo

Conversation Pieces

KUNSTSAELE Berlin – Berlin, Germany

Magazzino Italian Art

Contemporary Italian Art on the Hudson River – New York

Slow Learning

de la Cruz Collection – Miami, United States of America

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

A venue for contemporary African art – Cape Town

The Elliott Eyes Collection

Engaging With the Collectors – Sydney

Foundation Francès

A French roadtrip reaching the radical reflections of artist Kader Attia

The Sublime Hyacinth Collection

Czech Art Meets Czech Design – Prague, Czech Republic

Marciano Art Foundation

Contemporary art at the Masonic temple – Los Angeles

Time Stamps

Julia Stoschek Collection – Berlin, Germany

Generative Grammars

Servais Family Collection – Brussels, Belgium

Chasing the Future

dslcollection – Paris, France

Charged Atmospheres

Transformer Station – Cleveland, United States of America

Places in, and out of, Time

Adrastus Collection – Arévalo, Spain

Eloquent Silences

The Givon Art Forum – Tel Aviv, Israel

Counting to Ten

Ten Cubed – Melbourne, Australia

Dispersing Narratives

The Wedge Collection – Toronto, Canada

Dialogues in Nature

Chatsworth – Bakewell, Great Britain

Present Pasts

The Feuerle Collection – Berlin, Germany

Space for the Future

The Vanhaerents Art Collection – Brussels, Belgium

Colección Contemporánea

A Global Collection from a Seasoned Art Collector In Mexico City

Adrastus Collection

A Collection That Shows the Diversity of Art in the Age of Globalization – Arevalo, Spain

Masters and Romantics

Collection Lambert – Avignon, France

Fondazione Rolla

A Collection of Modern and Contemporary Photography in Ticino

Cranford Collection

One of Europe’s Most Important Collections with Renowned Contemporaries in Regent’s Park – London

Broad Minded

Artist Tomasz Kobialka on The Broad – Los Angeles, USA

Jean-Paul Najar Foundation

European-American Post-Minimalist Art in a Bauhaus-inspired building – Dubai

Treasure Hunt

The Wanås Foundation/Wanås Konst – Knislinge, Sweden

AMC Collezione Coppola

A Curious Collector Acquiring Art to Broaden his Understanding of the World

A Home for Light and Color

MALBA – Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires

Newport Street Gallery

Damien Hirst’s ‘Murderme’ Collection finds a permanent home – London

Franks Suss Collection

A Duo Investing in Artists and Not Cashing In – Hong Kong, London and Sydney

Mallin Collection & Buckhorn Sculpture Park

A Magic Sculpture Garden in Westchester County – Pound Ridge, New York

Shine On

Wurlitzer – Berlin-Pied-à-Terre Collection – Berlin, Germany

Houghton Hall – King's Lynn

Lavish 18th Century interiors juxtaposed with contemporary outdoor sculpture

Venet Foundation

An Artist’s Take on Collecting in the South of France

G2 Kunsthalle

Large-scale paintings of the New Leipzig School in dialogue

The Immaculate Collection

Igal Ahouvi Art Collection – Tel Aviv, Israel


The best of Chinese contemporary art, available 24/7/365

Thoma Foundation

Two intimate art spaces in Chicago and Santa Fe encourage dialogue between work and viewer

Lyon Housemuseum

Located near Melbourne, Australia, collector Corbett Lyon designed the Housemuseum to share it with the public

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

Inhotim – Instituto de Arte Contemporânea e Jardim Botânico

Portraiture Confronting a Land’s Traumatic Past

The Walther Collection – Project Space New York – New York City

Conceptual Authenticity

Sammlung Barbara und Axel Haubrok - haubrok projects - Berlin, Germany

A Self-taught Collector

Vass Collection - Veszprém, Hungary

Roots in Rotterdam

Concordia Collection - Rotterdam, Netherlands

Louvre goes Lens – and Pinault follows

How France’s most established museum and collector are redeveloping forgotten places

History Reinvented

Insights into the influential collection of Martin Parr

A Collection Which Never Sleeps

David Roberts Art Foundation – Great Britain, London

Get Lucky

David Walsh and his MONA

An Eye into a Secret World

SIP Shpilman Institute for Photography – Tel Aviv, Israel

Gifts for Philadelphia

Private collectors with a generous heart

A New Home for Miami’s Art Scene

On the opening of the Jorge M. Pérez Museum

Prima Materia at Punta Della Dogana

François Pinault Foundation - Venice, Italy

Eric and Jean Cass Collection

A private collection goes public

Bernardo Paz’s Transformative Museum

A closer look at Inhotim in Brazil

The Open Road to Jupiter

Robert & Nicky Wilson - Jupiter Artland

Collecting with an Impact

Dakis Joannou - Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art

Menil Collection Makeover

Starting with the parking lot

White Rabbit Collection

Chinese Contemporary Art – Australia, Sydney