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Public art collection

Akseli Leinonen: Ecology Stone, 2020. Mall of Tripla, Keski-Pasila. © HAM/Sonja Hyytiäinen

Art can be experienced all over Helsinki: Nearly 300 public artworks from the city’s public art collection are found in Helsinki’s parks, streets and squares. Semi-public indoor spaces, such as schools, daycare centres and libraries, house more than 200 public artworks specifically designed for each location. In addition, HAM has deposited 2,500 works from its collections in the city’s public buildings.

HAM administers the city’s art collection and is in charge of the city’s historic and continually growing collection of public art. HAM also provides expert advice on new acquisitions for the city’s public art collection. The City of Helsinki’s public artworks can be browsed on HAM’s public art map.

Why do we have public art?

Kirsi Kaulanen: Mare mare, 2023. Kalasatama. © HAM/Kirsi Halkola

HAM curates contemporary art for public spaces to reflect today’s world and its phenomena as well as to discuss various timeless and universal questions. Public art is a central element of an attractive and thought-provoking city. In public spaces, art becomes part of people’s everyday lives and enables equal encounters with art for all.

Public artworks make built-up environments more pleasant and they strengthen the locals’ sense of pride and belonging in their neighbourhoods. In schools, daycare centres and other semi-public spaces, artworks are also part of art education. Additionally, public art increases Helsinki’s attraction as an international city of art and culture. 

Alicja Kwade: Big Be-Hide, 2021. Parrulaituri, Kalasatama. © HAM/Maija Toivanen

How is public art acquired?

Today, the majority of Helsinki’s public art is financed in accordance with the percentage financing principle. Meaning, in accordance with the City Board’s decision, approximately one per cent of the construction budget of the city’s major public building projects is allocated to art acquisitions. The percentage financing principle is primarily used to commission new artworks designed for a specific location, such as public buildings and the city’s parks and squares. HAM lends its curating and art expertise to the projects and coordinates cooperation between the artist, the owner of the building project, the building designers and the future users of the building in question. When an artwork is completed, HAM adds it to the city’s art collection.

Jacob Dahlgren: Early One Morning, Eternity Sculpture, 2019. Kalasatama. © HAM/Maija Toivanen

In Helsinki’s comprehensive development and urban renewal projects, the percentage financing principle entails a public art allocation that is collected from the building developers. The allocation is based on a project’s floor area and the floor area ratio. For example, in Kalasatama, the city has implemented an extensive public art programme since 2014, and it will continue to the 2030s.

Lasse Juuti: The Contemporaries, 2024 (detail). Oulunkylä. © HAM/Maija Toivanen

Helsinki has observed the percentage programme since 1991. By making a percentage principle decision, cities and other public entities engage in promoting art and high-quality built environments. As a result of the City of Helsinki’s intensive construction activity, its commissions for public art are the largest in number in Finland and one of the most substantial internationally.

Otto Karvonen: The Roots of the City, 2013. Kamppi metro station. © HAM/Maija Toivanen

HAM has a specific annual appropriation for acquisitions not consisting of building projects. This annual appropriation is also used for conserving and repairing public artworks. The appropriation enables acquisitions to the city’s areas without building projects that would entail acquiring art on the percentage principle. In this way, the annual appropriation also strengthens equality among the city’s various areas.

Pekka Kauhanen: National Memorial to the Winter War, 2017. Kasarmitori. © HAM/Maija Toivanen

Public art is also donated to the city. Because the donations are added to the city’s art collection, HAM evaluates the proposed donations – as part of its collection policy – on the same criteria of high quality and maintenance as other art acquisitions. The city’s Urban Environment Division evaluates the donation proposals based on the donation’s planned location as well as technical and other practical criteria. In addition, the city requires that the donor commits to cover all donation-related expenses.

Eila Hiltunen: Sibelius Monument “Passio Musicae”, 1967. © HAM/Yehia Eweis

The majority of Helsinki’s historic public artworks were donated to the city. The city does not finance person statues but has received statues of all former presidents of Finland and the Paavo Nurmi runner statue as donations from the State of Finland. Additionally, the Sibelius Monument and the Three Smiths Statue as well as the National Memorial to the Winter War, one of the more recent artworks, were donated to the museum.

Artist choices

Tiina Raitanen: The List, 2022. Telakkaranta, in front of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). © HAM/Kirsi Halkola

HAM invites artists to its public art projects. The artworks are curated to match their planned locations and contexts. Artist choices are discussed in project-specific teams that consist of an art expert from HAM, executives and designers from the building project in question and the users’ representatives.

The artist choices as well as the curating and public art processes are based on HAM’s collection policy. The policy is the museum’s long-term action plan that describes the museum’s objectives, focus and development measures. It also details how the museum organises accessioning, recording, storage and displaying as well as conservation and research.

We invite artists to each public art project. Any art contests of portfolio admissions will be announced separately. If you want to send us a work proposal or your portfolio, they can be emailed to Please contact us only via email. Unfortunately we are not able to provide feedback, but we will contact you if we want to have more information on a project.