Spring at EMMA: spirituality | EMMA - Espoo Museum of Modern Art

EMMA - Espoo Museum of Modern Art

EMMA - Espoo Museum of Modern Art is one of the biggest museums in Finland.

Spring at EMMA: spirituality


Just when there’s a powerful trend urging us to slow down and take stock, spirituality has become a popular theme in art exhibitions all over the world. EMMA – the Espoo Museum of Modern Art – takes pleasure in presenting the theme in two exceptional exhibitions, as well as an exciting programme of related events – see our website emma.museum.

Seen through design, the visual arts and philosophical thought, the exhibition Designer of the Everyday – Rudolf Steiner offers a comprehensive analysis of the life work and influence of the founder of anthroposophy. The exhibition shows how great an impact Steiner’s works and ideas had on contemporary artists and modern design. There are altogether some 400 exhibits on show. The exhibition has been produced by the world-famous Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany.  
The Feel the Spirit! exhibition examines the influence of the spiritual on modern and contemporary art. The main focus is on the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), but works by artists Joseph Beuys, Olafur Eliasson, Jussi Niva and Silja Rantanen are also included.
The Vitra Design Museum, which is one of the best known design and architecture museums in the world, produced the exhibition in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Steiner was one of the most influential figures of the last century, but also one of the most controversial. The exhibition offers a new and topical appraisal of his thoughts on humanity, social and ecological responsibility, and discovers how surprisingly modern was his view of the relationship between design and the arts and human wellbeing. The origins of such prominent modern ideas as environmentalism, natural cosmetics and pure food can already be found at the core of Steiner’s thinking in the early 20th century. The background to his original philosophy, anthroposophy, lies in a thorough grounding in the natural sciences, traditional Western philosophy, as well as Eastern thought. Steiner’s revolutionary way of thinking made no distinction between natural science and metaphysics: to him science, art and spirituality were one and the same thing. During his life he delivered over 5000 lectures and wrote some 350 works on a wide range of subjects. 
Rudolf Steiner’s extensive artistic output derives from his philosophy. Together with the Catalonian Antoni Gaudi and the American Frank Lloyd Wright, Steiner was one of the pioneers of organic design at the beginning of the 20th century. He believed that design should take account of man’s spiritual and emotional needs. This led to the use of organic, natural shapes, particularly crystals, in architecture and design. For Steiner, form and colour were inseparable from each other. He believed that colours possessed physical, emotional and spiritual characteristics, and were an integral part of man’s spiritual development.
Many contemporary artists like Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky were influenced by Steiner’s ideas, and many of them knew him, attended his lectures and corresponded with him. The paintings, furniture, models, sculptures and drawings in the exhibition are proof of his close association with many of his contemporaries. Also modern artists and designers like Joseph Beuys, Olafur Eliasson, Konstantin Grcic, and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec have been influenced by Steiner.
EMMA’s exhibition is in three parts. The first deals with Rudolf Steiner and his ideas, as well as the influence   early 20th century social and artistic movements like Art Nouveau, Cubism and Expressionism had on him. The second part takes a closer look at his new aesthetics of the everyday and how it was expressed in architecture, design and drama. The third part studies Steiner’s influence on modern society and the practical applications in such fields as pedagogy and medicine. Among the exhibits are two healing colour chambers that members of the public may enter, built according to Steiner’s original instructions.
Until comparatively recently Steiner was mainly known in Finland in the field of pedagogy and for the philosophical movement he developed, anthroposophy. His wider influence on the arts and society, on the other hand, has received less attention. The exhibition Designer of the Everyday – Rudolf Steiner approaches his lifework from an entirely new angle. Steiner was not only a philosopher, scientist, teacher, journalist, social reformer and mystic, but also one of the 20th century’s most original and fascinating designers and planners. The EMMA exhibition offers a wider view of the diverse ways in which design and society are interconnected. This connection is expressed in art, architecture, natural sciences and technology, not to mention spirituality and ethics, and reflects the essence of Steiner’s idea of the unity of man, the earth and the universe.
Feel the Spirit! presents the work of one of Sweden’s most essential painters, Hilma af Klint (1862-1944). The enthralling story of her life and work remained unknown for a long time because in her will she gave instructions that her art was to be kept hidden from the public for 20 years after her death. It was not until 1986 that the art world discovered and internationally not until 2013 when her works were shown at the Venice Biennale and the Stockholm Moderna Museet retrospective.
Hilma af Klint can be considered the pioneer of abstract art as she was painting works of this character as early as 1906, years before the accepted founders of the movement Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian began working. Like the other avant-gardists of abstract art, af Klint was also influenced by many spiritual movements, like spiritism, theosophy and anthroposophy. Emphasising the spiritual dimension in their work was to many artists a way to counterbalance the materialistic world image of the early 20th century.
Af Klint, however, would have been quite indifferent to any discussion of her pioneering role in abstract art;  what was essential was to portray the different dimensions of the spiritual. She rejected the idea of depicting the materialist world, developing a unique visual language to describe man’s inner world. Whilst maintaining a strict separation between her private and public life and art, she earned her living as a traditional portrait and landscape artist, secretly painting her esoteric works. The 21 works in the EMMA exhibition come from the famous Paintings for the Temple series.
The works in Feel the Spirit! exhibition deal with spirituality and spectator experiences. They encourage us to enter the border zone between seen and unseen reality. In his work Olafur Eliasson, one of the most prominent artists of the moment, considers the various spiritual dimensions of space, especially from the individual point of view. Eliasson features in both exhibitions. The German performance and video artist Joseph Beuys believed in the healing power of art. The Finnish artists Jussi Niva and Silja Rantanen also dwell on the spiritual character of art. Rantanen’s mental maps and Niva’s visual effects challenge the spectator to a subjective experience.
An exhibition Designer of the Everyday – Rudolf Steineris produced by the Vitra Design Museum, in cooperation with Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg and Kunstmuseum Stuttgart.
Collaborators: Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Wala, Weleda, Mahle Foundation, Iona Stichting, Voi hyvin and Bukowskis.
Further information:
Museum director Pilvi Kalhama, Pilvi.kalhama@emma.museum, 040 533 4070
Designer of the Everyday - Rudolf Steiner: curator Päivi Talasmaa, paivi.talasmaa@emma.museum, 050 511 4206
Feel the Spirit!, researcher Hannele Savelainen, Hannele.savelainen@emma.museum, 050 462 5284
Related events programme, curator Nana Salin, nana.salin@emma.museum, 050 461 6780