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About the collection

HAM looks after the art collection of the City of Helsinki

Ellen Thesleff: Thyra Elisabeth, 1892. © HAM/Maija Toivanen

HAM looks after an art collection that belongs to all residents of Helsinki, consisting of 10,000 works of art.

The majority of the collection consists of Finnish art from the 20th and 21st centuries, but it also includes some older Finnish masterpieces as well as international art. From the very beginning, HAM has been investing in young and creative artists who contribute to the creation of new art history.

The collection consists of several individual donated collections as well as the city’s own acquisitions.

Leonard and Katarina Bäcksbacka’s collection of donated artworks is the heart of HAM. The collection, donated in 1976, includes several gems of Finnish art history, such as Tove Jansson’s Before the Masquerade (1943) Tyko Sallinen’s Mirri (1910).

Search from the collection

You can currently find more than 1,800 works from the collections of the HAM Helsinki Art Museum in Finna.

Where can you see the collection?

Tove Jansson: Party in the Countryside, 1947. © HAM/Maija Toivanen

Collection in exhibitions

HAM displays works from its collections in changing exhibitions organised in Tennis Palace, and part of the collection is permanently on display there.The core of the museum, the Leonard and Katarina Bäcksbacka Collection, is located in dedicated halls on the museum’s first floor. In addition, Tove Jansson’s frescos Party in the City and Party in the Countryside are permanently on display in the museum.

Works are also loaned out to other exhibition organisers to be displayed in Finnish and international exhibitions.

Kyösti Pärkinen: Nubilus 1, 2008. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

Around the city

The HAM Collection includes over 10,000 works, of which about 2,500 are found the city’s in public spaces, both indoors and outside. The most visible part of the collection are the public sculptures located in the streets, squares and parks of the city. Art is present in the everyday lives of the people of Helsinki. It is everywhere that local residents, visitors, tourists and city employees find themselves in their daily life. The aim is for art to have an equal presence in all parts of the city. Through art, HAM hopes to encourage and bring joy to the citizens of Helsinki.

Jasmin Anoschkin: Strawberry SoftIceCream, 2017. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

The collection online

HAM has published approximately 1,800 artworks from its collection in the national search service. Finna is a search service for museums, libraries and archives in Finland. On HAM’s Finna page, visitors can explore works by searching for artists, topics, techniques, or various categories. The categories include exhibitions at the Tennis Palace, the Bäcksbacka Collection, and public art outdoors in the streets and indoors in schools, libraries, and day-care centres. The page is continuously updated with new works.

The warden of an art collection that belongs to the people of Helsinki, HAM works to make its collections more accessible and find new audiences. An additional goal is to increase domestic and international awareness of the collections. A channel for these goals is Finna, a free-of-charge and agile database, which is available without registration.

How did it all begin?

Ville Vallgren: Havis Amanda, 1908. © HAM/Yehia Eweis

The City of Helsinki’s art collection is started when the City Council accepts a memorial statue of poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg, sculpted by Walter Runeberg.

Collection policy

Elina Brotherus: Salle à manger (Dining Room), 2015. © HAM/Sonja Hyytiäinen

The collection policy, also known as the collection policy programme, is the museum’s long-term action plan that describes the museum’s objectives, focus and development measures. It also details how accessioning, recording, storage and displaying as well as conservation and research are organised at the museum.

All of HAM’s practices reflect the collection policy. It ensures that the art collection grows systematically, the works are preserved properly and that art is accessible to all, for example in exhibitions as well as in outdoor and indoor spaces in the city.

The collection policy is updated regularly. The current policy from 2017, now being updated, is available below.

How does the collection build up?

Erik Creutziger: From the Pool with a View, 2022. © HAM/Kirsi Halkola

HAM adds to the art collection with the help of various appropriations by acquiring existing and commissioned works of art.

From the very beginning, accessioning has focused on creating a collection of Finnish contemporary art. The share of older art has been kept low in accessioning, focusing on supplementing the museum’s donated collections. The museum has also added some foreign works to its collection, primarily from exhibitions held by the art museum. The collection is grown through acquisitions and donations.

The acquisition guidelines and various appropriations are described in the collection policy, which is updated regularly.

EGS: Night on Earth, 2017. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

Art acquisitions

The City of Helsinki allocates an annual sum of money for art acquisitions. In charge of adding items to the city’s art collection, the HAM Helsinki Art Museum Foundation submits art acquisition proposals to the city authorities.

The museum’s Public Art Unit provides expert advice on the Percentage Financing and Public Art acquisitions. Since the 19th century, donations have been a significant factor in building up the city’s art collections. Read more about public art here.

Elin Danielson-Gambogi: Interior. © HAM/Hanna Rikkonen


Donations have been a significant part of the art collection since the 19th century.

The core of Helsinki’s art collection is the donated Leonard and Katarina Bäcksbacka Collection, consisting of approximately 430 individual works collected by art connoisseur and gallerist Leonard Bäcksbacka. In addition to this, the city’s collection also includes other high-quality donated collections as well as individually donated works. The city also receives public works of art as donations.

In donation projects, HAM serves as the expert, the party issuing statements and, when a donation is completed, as the recipient. When accepting donations of public works of art, the placement of the work is negotiated between the art museum and the city’s Urban Environment Division.

Conservators and technicians


HAM takes care of the collection of art belonging to the people of Helsinki in a very concrete way. The beloved works of art are constantly being transported, stored, hung, protected and conserved.

HAM’s collection is maintained by conservators who monitor the conditions of art storage rooms and exhibition facilities and, together with the museum’s technicians, make sure that works of art are handled correctly in all situations. The conservators also inspect and refurbish pieces of art every time they are loaned out to other museums or exhibitions.

HAM maintains public sculptures in cooperation with the city’s Urban Environment Division. The maintenance and service of outdoor sculptures includes conservation, repair, cleaning and waxing. During park maintenance and roadworks, the sculptures are put in storage and conserved.