Amos Rex - an urban art mecca in the heart of the city

Amos Rex from above
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The Amos Rex art museum is impressing visitors with its architecture and exhibitions for the third year already. "This glory of Finnish functionalism has been immaculately restored--. The architects hope their sloping landscape will become a spontaneous auditorium for outdoor concerts and events, but even without any performances it has already become a magnet of activity in the middle of the city, whose oversized squares often feel a bit windswept. And there’s a spectacular gallery underneath it, to boot." - The Guardian

Finns are famous for their willingness to queue obediently. A year ago, Finnish media was full of images of queues stretching for hundreds of metres around the iconic Lasipalatsi “Glass Palace” as people waited patiently to get into Amos Rex’s inaugural exhibition. The episode was exceptionally heart-warming: the good-humoured visitors were not put off in the least by the biting wind or freezing temperatures. Many waited two to three hours to get inside to enjoy the engaging digital art. TeamLab’s Massless exhibition was ultimately viewed by over a quarter of a million visitors and the museum attracted over half a million visitors in its first year.

Helsinki’s new art museum also made international media headlines, with articles about Amos Rex estimated to have reached millions of readers even before the museum opened its doors. The gallery is housed in an extremely innovative space, and the exhibitions themselves are very ambitious. The museum’s staff have been overjoyed by all the success in the first year, even though it has meant lots of work for them.

In March 2020 the Amos Rex Art Museum won the prestigious LCD (Leading Culture Destination) Award for New Cultural Destination of the Year – Europe. 

Unique architectural attraction

Amos Rex opened in August 2018 after a major construction project that lasted two and a half years and cost 50 million euros. Most of the museum space is situated in new underground space designed by JKMM Architects and built beneath a square. The rest of the museum comprises the beautifully restored Lasipalatsi with its cinemas and the adjacent square where you can look down into the galleries below.

The domes that rise out of the square open up all kinds of possibilities. In summertime, the square is lined by sunny terraces, and the domes invite you to climb them and take photos. You can browse through countless photos of the museum, its exhibitions and the square on social media using the tag #amosrex.

Stairs to exhibition floor // Staircase on movie theatre's wall
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Three floors of culture

The main entrance is on the Mannerheimintie side, but there is also a wheelchair-friendly entrance from the square. The front doors are bordered by the name of the museum in bright red neon letters. On the street level you will find the ticket desks and a well-stocked museum shop. The items sold there are regularly updated according to the current exhibitions and also include lots of paper products, games, designer household items, reflectors and other products in a wide price range. The impressive art books and designer umbrellas made entirely from reflective fabric are particularly high quality. 

The basement level houses the galleries. As you step down into the attractive white light, you can enjoy the view out to the courtyard through the window above the stairs. A free-of-charge cloakroom and stylish (and unisex) WC facilities can be found in the lower foyer. Through the window above the foyer you can admire the amusing steps up on the side of the building outside that are there for the cinema’s camera operator.

The atmosphere changes completely as you step from the bright foyer into the dark gallery itself. The first things you notice are the springy wooden floor beneath your feet and the forest-like scent in the air. You then look up to the ceiling that rises ten metres above your head and notice the thousands of discs above. The space can be ingeniously transformed and divided to suit the needs of both traditional paintings and contemporary digital art. Even the original café from the prohibition era 90 years ago has been rebuilt.

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Amos Rex is responsible: it uses ecological electricity, employs people with special needs and encourages the use of public transport.

Amos Rex hosts three to four new exhibitions a year, some of which can be experienced in augmented reality (AR) by downloading the Arilyn app to your phone. Sigurd Frosterus’s post-impressionist art collection offers visitors insight into a very personal view of early Modernism in 20th-century Finland. Sigurd Frosterus was an art collector who was active in the first half of the 20th century and is primarily remembered as the architect of the Stockmann department store.

The themes of the exhibitions at Amos Rex range from new and often experimental contemporary art to 20th-century Modernism (classics) and even ancient cultures. In summertime you can see the latest contemporary art from the Nordic region. If you are interested in finding out more about the exhibitions or the building itself, you can identify the museum guides by their quilted jackets designed by RH. They are happy to discuss with you the deeper meanings behind the art or simply give fun tips if you are visiting with kids.

On the second floor you will find the private cinema Tilausteatteri Bio Rex, which was one of the biggest and most modern cinemas in Helsinki when it originally opened in 1936. Over the years it became an important flagship cinema that hosted the premieres of films from both Finland and abroad. The venue can be booked for private screenings or special events. Catering can be ordered conveniently from the Restaurant Lasipalatsi inside the same building.

  Bio Rex was the most modern and largest movie theatre in the city when opened in 1936
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The Lasipalatsi “Glass Palace” also houses numerous cafés, restaurants and design shops, including the Karhu concept store, Makia’s flagship store and the Iittala store.

How to get there

Amos Rex is situated right in the heart of Helsinki, approximately 400 metres to the west of Helsinki Central Station. Trams 1, 2, 3, 5, 6/6T, 7, 9 and 10 will all get you there – get off at the Lasipalatsi stop. If you are arriving by metro, you can get off at either Helsinki Central Station or Kamppi.

Restaurant Lasipalatsi
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English

The glass palace, built in 1936, is a gem of Finnish functionalist architecture. This coexistence of old and new is very intriguing to us.”
Museum Director Kai Kartio
 


 

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The Amos Rex art museum is impressing visitors with its architecture and exhibitions for the third year already. The museum attracted over half a million visitors in its first year.