Maria Sharapova isn't immediately synonymous with modern art, but don't tell that to the Finns. Originally constructed in 1930 in Helsinki's preparation (re: rennovation) for their 1940 Olympics bid, the Tennis Palace Art Museum originally sold cars and car parts/service. When they lost their Olympics bid to Tokyo (albeit the games were ultimately cancelled due to World War II) and the automotive industry began to move out from the center of town, the building was bought by the government who intended--as was the architect's (who designed the place as a student) wish--to tear it down.
Fortunately, the little (re: large) non-museum that could evaded destruction, though it did deteriorate for much of the 20th Century. In the early 90s, it got a major face-lift and was born again as a cultural center. Today it houses the Museum of Cultures, film company Finnkino Ltd., and one part of the Helsinki City Art Museum. As luck would have it, Helsinki has always had a soft spot for turning disused buildings into cultural institutions.
For that story alone, it's worth a trip out to see this center in action. However, currently at the TPAM is an exhibition that I'd give my right arm to see. Often thought of as a visual interpretation of music, the 70-year old artist Juhana Blomstedt is currently on exhibition with a 50-year retrospective. One of Finland's most famous artists, his work bridges the divide between abstract and figurative and, unlike many modern artists, he encourages (even insists) observers to find something in his art. It's a great deal of fun and always refreshing to see someone insist that there is no such thing as an abstract image. Helsinki has pretty reasonable museum entry fees--here the entry is 7 Euro for adults, 5 Euro for students and senior citizens, free for kiddies under 18. But, if you're free on Friday, go then for free admission. Yes, on one of the busiest museum days in the week, it's free. Now that's art.
Oh, and Helsinki DID end up hosting the Olympics in 1952. [more]
Bookmark this page on: