Exhibition explores graffiti culture and ownership of urban space.

Graffiti, explores the historical roots of graffiti and its present manifestations, with particular focus on the links between Helsinki graffiti culture and the international field. The show also features contemporary artworks that bear an affinity with graffiti through their autonomous mindset and use of urban space. The exhibition includes artworks and documentary material by international and Helsinki-based artists.

The exhibition sheds light on a phenomenon that is both illicit subculture and a figurative language visible to everyone in public spaces.

Mounted in the museum’s two large vaulted galleries, the show is divided into two parts. The first examines graffiti as a subculture, lifestyle and form of art. The roots of graffiti culture are presented through Martha Cooper’s iconic photos of subway trains and graffiti artists in NYC. A mural created for this exhibition by legendary graffiti artist Blade will bring history to life in the present, and Swedish Nug will paint his latest work directly onto the gallery wall. The exhibition also features a brand new piece by Finnish graffiti artists Egs and Trama.

The colourful history of graffiti in Helsinki from the 1980s to the present is illustrated in a timeline highlighting the major shift in local citizens’ attitude toward the public space in the past ten years. Graffiti first appeared in Helsinki in the mid-1980s, influenced by films and photography books on New York City’s graffiti culture. Ten years ago, in 2008, the City of Helsinki discontinued its anti-graffiti project, Stop töhryille (Stop the Scrawls). After the unconditionally negative public attitudes, the different forms of street art have received more favourable attention.

The exhibition presents the roots of graffiti with photographs, films and works by field’s iconic names.

The second part of the show consists of works of art that feature the public space and its utilisation as a place for art. The American group Guerrilla Girls presents an installation of posters and videos that illustrates their campaigns over the past few decades combating inequality in the art world and society at large. Urban Space Occupation Kit by Otto Karvonen will give audiences a chance to appropriate a space for themselves. The exhibition also includes works from the HAM collection by artists whose first visual inspiration was graffiti.

The exhibition is curated by Heli HarniSatu Oksanen and Sanna Tuulikangas from HAM. The exhibition architecture is designed by architect Tuomas Siitonen.