The year 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of visual artist Olli Lyytikäinen’s (1949–1987) birth. Lyytikäinen’s works from the 1970s anticipated the spirit of the art of the 1980s: among his contemporaries, the artist has taken on an almost mythical sheen as a modern Finnish artistic genius. The exhibition opens the Ateneum’s new Fokus gallery, which will present concise displays, featuring selected artists or themes from the Ateneum collection.

Olli Lyytikäinen (born in 1949 in Heinävesi) rose to fame in the 1970s as a member of the artist group Elonkorjaajat (‘Harvesters’). Lyytikäinen was not a trained visual artist, but he demonstrated artistic maturity from the very start of his career. Both high and popular culture provided him with visual material, which he applied, in an incomparable style, to his own art. For Lyytikäinen, making art was about finding and exploring one’s own identity.

The exhibition, to be staged in one gallery, shows some 40 works, mainly watercolours and drawings, from 1969–1982. The works exhibited come from both the Ateneum’s own collection and private collections. Works owned by artist and architect Stuart Wrede, Olli Lyytikäinen’s friend, form an important part of the exhibition. These works will be deposited to the Ateneum collection in conjunction with the exhibition. In addition to works by Lyytikäinen, the exhibition presents Hannele Rantala’s photographs of the artist. The exhibition is curated by the director of the Ateneum Art Museum, Marja Sakari,and the chief curator, Sointu Fritze.

As an artist, Olli Lyytikäinen was ahead of his time. His works were based on the classical values of the visual arts: drawing and mastery of form. At the same time, as early as the 1970s, his works reflected the spirit of the art of the 1980s, which was characterised by an increasing shift from a world of great ideas towards individuality and diversity of views. Lyytikäinen’s images both reveal and conceal at the same time, and they always seem to display a mysterious, mythical dimension.