Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Galleries in Helsinki: Kallio with a map

There are a lot of small and/or artist and/or curator run and/or avant garde galleries in Helsinki's Kallio area, nicely situated quite close to each other, all having a distinctive character. I'm a member in a curator group P14, and we ran one of them for the year 2017. We had a gallery on loan, so to say: we took care of Kallio Kunsthalle for a year, as its regular host had some time off.

As a part of our activities in gallery running life, we published a monthly map of the nearby galleries' exhibitions and other interesting spots in the Kallio area. Even though our year in the Kallio gallery business is over, the rest of the galleries still remain, and some new ones have emerged. Changing exhibitions omitted, the map is still useful for a contemporary art (and coffee) inclined visitor in Kallio. So, here you go:

Original-ish PDF format map includes a variety of other interesting spots in the area at large as well, the Google map version (above) concentrates on the recommended route, with food and drink consumption possibilities in the close proximity of it.

Here's even a gif version, just in case


Strictly taken, not all the listed galleries are in the Kallio area, but too close and good to be missed. Which neighborhoods belong to Kallio officially, which are Kallio in spoken language and which are not part of Kallio at all, is a regular discussion in Kallio (in any meaning) bars and squares and internets, so that you know. Try claiming that your apartment, situated on the wrong side of bordering street of Kallio, is in Kallio, and you'll get your share of snarky comments – probably spiced up with a few words of old working class lingo, stadin slangi, just to show off.

In Helsinki, Instagram blooms with #galleriakierros (Gallery tour, it's a thing) photos during weekends, as veteran and aspiring culture professionals and lovers are having their leisurely stroll amongst the art hot spots of the city. For Kallio Gallery Walk the best day is Saturday, when all the galleries are open, at the approximately same times. The tour takes around four hours, depending on the program of the galleries and the amount of breaks. So, you should start pretty sharp at noon to do the whole tour without breaking sweat. You can cheat a little by using tram number nine for a few stops, see Gmaps version for that. Or rent a bike. Or skip a few galleries.


All the area's galleries are quite small and more or less underground, even literally. The emphasis is on the up and coming artists, though some established artists fit in quite nicely. If you're looking for a traditional lake scenery painting with a moose and maybe a swan, you probably won't find it here – unless you accept a lump of minced moose meat with a dirty brush stuck to it, commenting pollution of Baltic Sea with a dripping toilet seat, with soundtrack maybe by Astrid Swan, as such. Just a random, totally fictional example here.

Entrance to all the galleries is free of charge. The opening times are marked as they are right now and may change. Do check them from the galleries' websites!

Galleria Kuvitus

Recently opened Galleria Kuvitus is maintained by the Finnish Illustration Association. It's the only gallery in Finland, and one of few internationally, to focus on illustration art. It hosts 10 juried and curated exhibitions each year, exhibiting both published illustrations and illustrators' art projects. The space also houses the Association's office. 

Hämeentie 28
Mon–Tue 11–17
Wed 11–19
Thu–Fri 11–17
Sat 12–16

Kuvitus is possibly the most chic of the Kallio galleries


Finnish Comics Society’s gallery exhibits comics, comics based art and art done by comics authors, widely speaking. The artists are mostly Finnish or Finland based, but some international visitors are included in the cast. The premises include also the Society's office and a Turku Comic Book shop's store. And a reading nook. And workshops. And you name it. A comic fan may forget the rest of the tour after entering here.

Porthaninkatu 9
Mon–Fri 15–19
Sat 11–16

Damn those opening times!

On your way to Kalleria, you'll walk through Karhupuisto (Bear Park). This is a good place for a coffee break, since the park is surrounded with cozy cafés: Kulmakahvio/Bear park Café, Bergga and IPI. During the warmer summer days the super gay, but non-exclusive Bear Park Café operates from the kiosk in the park, with chairs and tables outside. A warmly recommended Kallio experience!


Kalleria is a somewhat curated gallery space, exhibiting mostly young and underground artists from the less refined side of contemporary art, and even outside of it. Anyone can ask to rent the space, so there is not an artistic policy as such and styles, themes and levels vary a great deal.

Kaarlenkatu 10
Opening times vary, but possibly Wed–Sun 12–17

Exhibition: By the Sea by Wiebke Pandikow

Pertin valinta

The underground punk band even in the scene of punk, Pertti Kurikan nimipäivät, has changed their art genre of choice and founded an outsider art gallery with a store to match. The gallery exhibits art by/about outsider artists. In the Sekotavarakauppa-store (that's a tricky wordplay to translate. General Distore?) there's a variety of books, music and household items with the weirdest and most wonderful decorations, mostly by the aforementioned artists. Good mood guaranteed!

Aleksis Kiven katu 48  
Wed–Fri 12–18
Sat 10–14     

Not your regular corner shop


Alkovi (Alcove) is a 24/7 display window gallery, watched from the street, presenting contemporary art exhibitions and projects especially in relation to the  location and the site. The connection the site of Kallio is fitting, since you might have to find your way to Alkovi through a long line of people, queuing for Hursti Charity food rations twice a week. The days of the Finnish welfare are way behind us, I'm afraid.

Helsinginkatu 19
Open 24/7

Alkovi, always available


Rupla (Ruble) is a café populated by young bohemians, with art exhibitions changing every three to four weeks. The style of the exhibitions is often traditionally provocative; expect to see some vulvas and politicians in campy and colourful situations, or a painting made by a bear. This is an excellent place for a lunch/brunch break, too.

Helsinginkatu 16
Mon–Fri 7:30–20
Sat–Sun 11–17

The brunch is worth a visit, too!
Exhibition: Tyhjiömatka (Vacuum Travel) by Jesse Avdeikov

Rõõm Helsinki

Rõõm (Estonian for Joy) Helsinki is a little cosy eco-lifestyle shop with a bonsai size gallery space. The artists exhibited are often connected with different areas of design and/or illustrate humans in their environment. The exhibitions change monthly.

Helsinginkatu 17
Tue–Fri 11–17
Sat 12–16

Rõõm's gallery corner is the tiniest!
Exhibition: Kevään eväsretki (Spring Outing) by Laura Havanto


Sorbus gallery is an artist-run space, organizing exhibitions and events from different areas of art: in addition to art exhibitions, there might be readings, concerts or a 24 hour dance performance in program. Or something else. Gallery's style is experimental and somewhat political. The name comes from Latin name of rowan tree, growing in the neighborhood. It was also the name of one of the cheapest wines in the official liquer store Alko, consumed by the most experienced drunkards of Finland.

Vaasankatu 15
Opening times vary

Sorbus (gallery, back) and sorbus (tree, front)

On that note, as you continue towards Free Space for Art, you'll pass first Piritori (actually Vaasanaukio, but Speed Square is the common name) with its ground painted huge balloons and meth heads in their daily chores, and then Kurvi crossing with addicts of more traditional substances, like alcohol. There are some really nice cafés too, though.

Free Space for Art

Vapaan taiteen tila is a forum for the students in Art University to organize their exhibitions, concerts, performances and other events, so there is a lot more happening than just exhibitions. Here the students can freely try out their weirdest ideas, so you might catch some future trends and exhibitions later mentioned in art history – or just really really awkward student art. Both are definitely worth a visit. The space is in an emergency shelter, which luckily is free from its original use, and the largest of spaces mentioned here. The website usually lists just the name of the event/artist, you'll have to do some googling to find out more about it. Or you can just go to see if there's something going on. It could be... anything.

The entry is opposite of Vilhonvuorenkuja 16
Opening times vary as Hell

Free Space for Art – underground in so many ways
On your way to Make Your Mark Gallery, you'll pass the
lovely pink buildings of Vilhonvuorenkuja and one of the
steepest hills in Helsinki road map

Make Your Mark Gallery

Helsinki is a graffiti city, in a Nordic scale at least. There's even a book about it, dating back from 1998, Helsinki Graffiti by Anne Isomursu and Tuomas Jääskeläinen, the latter being one of the first graffiti artists in Helsinki. It's the most stolen book from the libraries, I've heard, which is quite fitting. Ever since the eighties and nineties' hysteric anti-graffitism a lot has changed and nowadays there are a bunch of sites for so called legal graffitis. One of them is at Suvilahti area, on your way to Make Your Mark Gallery. The area is quite impressive in it's abandoned/gentrified glory, so take your time walking through it.

Some of the graffitis of Suvilahti and an abandoned gas holder.
No idea how that works. Or what it is, actually.

Make Your Mark is a gallery curated by two graffiti artists, working since the 80's. Exhibitions of graffiti, photography and visual arts change monthly. Whatever the genre, the works exhibited usually have a strong connection to graffiti. There's also a graffiti equipment store in the gallery space, and an outdated train line map on the floor.

Kaasutehtaankatu 1, building no 6
Tu–Fri 12–19
Sat 11–16
Sun 12–16

If you get inspired by the art, remedies are close.
Exhibition: Red Shades by Mason.


Kohta is a privately initiated kunsthalle in Helsinki. It has a strong tendency towards minimalistic and conceptual art – at the inaugural exhibition there was just a stump of tree on display. Well, that's not all there is to it, but gives an idea. You won't find naivist art with chubby pandas, flaming with colours here. The emphasis is on the concept, even though visuality does play a part.  Kohta is the only gallery in Kallio area that looks like a real gallery where professionals work and it even has a desk. The name translates both as soon and a spot. The latter as in place, not as in pimple.

Teurastamo inner yard, Työpajankatu 2 B, building 7
Wed–Fri 12–18
Sat–Sun 12–16

Kohta even has an understated, stylish bench. And a visitor.
Exhibition: Works on Paper by Simryn Gill.

The Teurastamo (Slaughterhouse) area is, as the name tells, a former area of slaughterhouses. There are some meat markets left, even if the slaughtering happens elsewhere these days. Also, there are a lot of wholesale markets, but the most interesting thing (for me, at least) are the restaurants and bars popping up to the abandoned industry halls. They are all quite near to Kohta, so this is a good place to be hungry. At least you should have a scoop of ice cream in Jädelino, great vegan options available, too!


Another trendy hip tip for an eager gallery visitor is of course Töölö – that's where we, P14, are residing this year, at Gallery Oksasenkatu 11. Welcome!

Oksasenkatu 11
Opening times vary, most often:
Wed–Fri 14–18
Sat–Sun 12–16

Part of our group at the opening of Ida Palojärvi's
exhibition Light Misunderstandings


• The Culture Trip: A street art tour in Helsinki
• Visit Finland: 9 Galeries d'art à explorer à Helsinki (en français)
• Helsinki Side Quest: Niche galleries for more than just fine art

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