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Alicja Kwade’s public works from the Helsinki Biennial find a permanent home in Kalasatama


Alicja Kwade: Big Be-Hide, 2019. © HAM/Maija Toivanen

In June, Helsinki’s Kalasatama will gain two new public works of art by Alicja Kwade. Originally seen in Vallisaari in summer 2021 as part of the Helsinki Biennial, the two pieces, titled Big Be-Hide and Pars Pro Toto, are now being permanently relocated to Kalasatama. Both works are editions created for Helsinki of concepts that the artist has realised in different parts of the world. Kwade (born 1979), who lives and works in Berlin, is one of the most interesting and sought-after artists in the field of international contemporary art. Her sculptures and installation often focus on the experiencing of time and space and the essence of reality.

Big Be-Hide, which is located on Parrulaituri, consists of a natural rock and a metallic copy thereof that are symmetrically placed on both sides of a two-sided mirror. Depending on how it is approached, the mirror either reflects or creates an illusion of transparency; it both hides and supplements. The environment reflected in the mirror creates a portal between landscapes and realities.

The work prompts one to think about similarity and dissimilarity and the possibilities of parallel worlds. According to Alicja Kwade, our everyday world is based on social contracts that we create out of our observations. Our understanding of reality and things that we consider to be absolute truths is flawed, as it is built upon the limitations of our senses.

Pars Pro Toto consists of eight stone spheres reminiscent of planets. For the Helsinki edition of the work, the artist chose primarily Nordic types of rock. Visible on the stones is the ancient process that formed them, age and the passage of time. The Latin title of the work, Pars Pro Toto, ‘a part for the whole,’ expresses one of the dimensions of the work: from atoms to solar systems, the structures of the universe keep repeating. The existence of individuals is contrasted with the massive scales of time and matter.

Alicja Kwade: Pars pro Toto, 2018. © HAM/Maija Toivanen

Kwade’s works explore our relationship with nature, our place in the universe and constant change as broader philosophical questions. They challenge us to question our observations and perception of the surrounding reality.

The works by Kwade being added to Helsinki’s art collection were curated by HAM Helsinki Art Museum. The procurement of the works was made possible by the Percent for Art principle, which is followed in Helsinki and in the building of the Kalasatama area, for example. The Kalasatama Environmental Art Project implements permanent and temporary art and events in collaboration with the City Executive Office, Urban Environment Division and Culture and Leisure Division of Helsinki and HAM Helsinki Art Museum. The environmental art project is funded with a floor area based fee collected from the area’s building developers.