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EMMA - Espoon modernin taiteen museo

Exhibition celebrating Rut Bryk's centenary opens at EMMA

Media release.
Published: 11-May-2016 01:00 pm
Publisher: EMMA - Espoon modernin taiteen museo


An exhibition marking the centenary of Rut Bryk’s birth opens at EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art on 12 May 2016. It is a broad display of the oeuvre of one of the most prominent artists and pioneers of ceramic art in post-war Finland. The exhibition The Magic Box exhibition will be at EMMA until 4 September 2016.

The exhibition is part of EMMA’s 10th anniversary programme and a continuation of EMMA’s series of exhibitions presenting classics of Finnish modernism, such as Tapio Wirkkala, Birger Kaipiainen and Lars-Gunnar Nordström.


Rut Bryk (1916−1999) is a name many Finns recognise, but what is the foundation of her status as a classic artist? Was she an industrial designer or an artist, a ceramist or picture maker? How did this creator of story-telling ceramic tiles become a reformer of abstract art and the very concept of relief?

Originally a graphic artist, Rut Bryk had never worked with ceramics until she was invited to join the art department of Arabia in 1942. In those years during the Second World War, the shortage of material was acute. In the long run, however, the factory’s recruitment policy proved successful: ten years later, experts around the world were talking about Arabia’s ceramic art. At La Triennale di Milano, Bryk’s works received the Grand Prix. Although an unsociable personality, as an artist Rut Bryk was an uncompromising and tireless experimenter who enjoyed technical challenges and was able to re-invent her ways of expression without losing her intimate and personal touch. Bryk’s oeuvre reflects the story of modern art in general.

Rut Bryk – The Magic Box is the most comprehensive review to date of the life’s work of this internationally recognised pioneer. The more than 200 works include charming illustrations and expressive graphic art, as well as early experiments with ceramics. Above all, the artist is presented as a colourist as well as a sure-handed modernist who gave abstract expression a soul. The highlights of the exhibition include ceramic tiles from the Milan Triennial (Stove, Mother and Child, Birds) and reliefs from her abstract phase (Church Wall, Ahmedabad II, City by the Water). Bryk’s first monumental work, Banquet Table (1961) currently located in Germany, is brought to life as a video projection incorporating authentic ceramic details. The bold and fun, pop-art inspired colours gave gradually way to lighter and more soulful nuances.

Rut Bryk’s oeuvre is presented in five sections; between them, visitors can enjoy documentaries providing background information to the exhibition. The faith in beauty that characterised the war years, is made tangible in the short film Savi elää (“Living Clay”, 1943). A video produced by EMMA discusses the details of the abstract wall reliefs. Furthermore, Harri Kalha’s book Rut Bryk: Elämän taide, about the artist and her art, will be published to coincide with the exhibition. Kalha is also the curator of the exhibition.

Rut Bryk – The Magic Box takes us back in time, to a world where industry still believed in the power of culture. Fed by this artistic idealism, beauty and technology, sensitivity and strength joined hands. In the background, we see Finland rise from the rubble and evolve into an industrial society and an actor on the global cultural scene.

Most of the works in the exhibition come from the Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation collection, which is deposited at EMMA. The material study Mielen mosaiikki (“Mind Mosaic”) by Rut Bryk’s daughter, artist Maaria Wirkkala is shown in connection with the exhibition.


The patron of the exhibition is Jenni Haukio, Spouse of the President of the Republic of Finland.

From EMMA, The Magic Box exhibition will continue to Oulu Museum of Art, where it will be from 1 October 2016 to 15 January 2017.

For further information, please contact:

Pilvi Kalhama, Museum Director, EMMA
pilvi.kalhama@emma.museum  tel. +358 40 533 4070

Henna Paunu, Curator, EMMA
henna.paunu@emma.museum tel. +358 43 824 6354

Press photos: http://kuvat.emma.museum/kuvat/Lehdistokuvat-Press/Rut+Bryk/

Password: emmamuseum

EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art is one of the most important art museums in Finland. EMMA’s exhibition rooms are divided between a presentation of the Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection and changing exhibitions. Through its collection and exhibition activities, EMMA profiles itself as a museum of domestic and international modernism, contemporary art, and design. EMMA is located in the WeeGee Exhibition Centre in Tapiola, Espoo.

Established in 2003, the Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation works to maintain the Wirkkala/Bryk collection, to support research and to promote exhibitions and publications. The Foundation’s goal of establishing a permanent venue for the collection will be fulfilled in 2017, when the collection will be placed in the WeeGee building. At the end of 2015, the City of Espoo, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art and the Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation signed an agreement to permanently display the collection in the WeeGee Exhibition Centre as part of EMMA. The purpose of the agreement is to ensure that this nationally valuable collection will be preserved and maintained and that the works are displayed for the public. The new venue and collection display boost EMMA’s profile in the field of design. Through this world-class collection, EMMA will be able to provide the public an even more varied range of exhibitions. Moreover, displaying the collection is seen as a way to enhance the popularity of the WeeGee Centre in general. The aim is to make it a globally interesting activity centre, with a broad display of modern design.


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