Street Art in Modern Art


[TUE APR 25 2017; B8; ’Katujen taidetta nykytaiteessa’, Niina Lahtinen]


There’s still time this week to visit the spring exhibition of the Hämeenlinna Art Museum. It showcases pieces from the museum’s own collection and from the Vantaa Art Museum Artsi specialized in street art. PHOTOS: Reima Määttänen


The urban, anarchistic, and free street art has gotten attention in the official field of art, museums, and art galleries. It has also been pondered whether the protection from art institutes is taming this wild beast of an artform into a housecat. Does street art belong to the streets or inside a museum?

In 2016, the Vantaa Art Museum came to be called Artsi, and started specializing in graffiti, street and performance art. Now, Artsi and its art collection are visiting the Hämeenlinna Art Museum, where street art and modern art collide and interact.


In the appropriately named Artsi & HML exhibition, pieces from the collections of the Vantaa and Hämeenlinna Art Museums are placed side by side. In broad strokes, the Vantaa pieces represent street art, and the Hämeenlinna pieces represent modern art inspired by street art.

The various pieces blend together in the exhibition, and the visitors are able to find visual similarities between street art and modern art. These juxtapositions also point out how difficult it is to define boundaries. In an art museum, is graffiti street art or modern art?


Many artists who started out as street artists and became successful in the field, can be called modern artists. The most internationally renowned example is the English artist known as Banksy. One of the merits of the Hämeenlinna Art Museum exhibition is showcasing the influences, mostly in the way that modern art pieces were influenced by the visual language of street art.

Themes explored by the exhibition include youth culture, urban city life, concrete suburbs, and popular culture. The most emotive form of street art may be graffiti, which, in Finland, has risen from being strictly illegal to being an accepted part of the streetview, with walls dedicated to perfectly legal graffiti and huge custom order wall paintings called murals.

Some of the most interesting artists in the Artsi & HML exhibition are the Finnish stars of street art Acton, Egs, Trama, and bird enthusiast Boing. Their pieces bring some of that rugged street culture onto the museum floors. The urban atmosphere is enhanced by the local railway maps partly visible in the works of Trama.

Two other artists also had trains among their themes: they can be foud in Hende’s installation Never Give Up!! Never Grow Up!! (2014), and in Oliver Whitehead’s video installation Mind’s Eye (1999-2014). Train cars and tracksides are an intrinsic part of street art.


On the modern side of the exhibition, graffiti aesthetics are utilized most obviously by Mikko Myöhänen, who has two pieces showcased in the collection of the Hämeenlinna Art Museum. In addition, outside the museum walls, there is a spraypainted plywood piece of art called Space Octopussy (2017), which was made by Myöhänen, Isto Koskinen, Jesse Poltinoja, and Juuso Suuronen.

Making ripples in the predominantly male pool of street artists, Salla Ikonen has two airbrush paintings in the exhibition. Catalina (2014) is painted onto the hood of a car.

On the whole, the Artsi & HML exhibition offers a fresh ensemble out of two art museum’s collections. When visiting, a multitude of color and a vast amount of attitude are sure to be found.


The last guided tour for the Artsi & HML exhibition is on April 30, at 2 pm.


Sculptor Radoslaw Gryta’s ’Revolution’ attracts attention at the Hämeenlinna Art Museum.


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