Wanted: Good home for Presidential portrait, c. 1973; would complete collection of Kekkonen memorabilia
By Unto Hämäläinen
The Paasikivi Society (see link below) is still searching for a permanent place to hang the famous - some might say notorious - painting of former President of Finland Urho Kaleva Kekkonen (1900-1986) by the Russian artist Ilya Glazunov (1930-).
The painting, seen by many as an iconic image of the era of "Finlandisation", has been in storage since the spring.
For a couple of years now, the Society has been looking for a venue worthy of the work, but without success.
The hope is that it could be on display in some public location. If this cannot be arranged, then the piece will be given to a suitable museum.
Glazunov painted Kekkonen's full-length portrait in 1973. The Paasikivi Society commissioned the work, but in actual fact it was a gift from the Kremlin and the Soviet Union.
It was on display for the first time at an exhibition of Glazunov's work in the Helsinki Kunsthalle in January 1975.
The show proved to be the biggest hit at the Kunsthalle in the 1970s, and was attended by some 42,000 people.
After the exhibition, the painting was hung in the main foyer of Finlandia Hall, because Finlandia was the venue for the Helsinki Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe - the so-called "Helsinki Summit" - of 1975, generally recognised as the jewel in the crown of Kekkonen's long presidency (from 1956 through to his resignation owing to ill-health in October 1981).
Thereafter it was moved to the Hotel Presidentti in downtown Helsinki, but this proved a poor solution and it was moved once again in 1992 to the entrance hall of the Urho Kekkonen Museum in Tamminiemi, formerly one of the official residences of the head of state (1940-1981) and Kekkonen's home from 1981 until his death five years later.
It is no longer seen as a suitable decoration for the walls of Tamminiemi.
The intention is to return Kekkonen's home to the state it was during his lifetime, in terms of furniture, fittings, and artworks, and Glazunov's portrait does not fit the bill.
Apparently it also does not fit the surroundings (or presumably the "contemporary" label) of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, where it was originally thought to have found a home after a Glazunov retrospective last year in connection with the artist's 80th birthday.
The Paasikivi Society's own premises, on the other hand, are not large enough to accommodate the rather sizeable portrait.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print in the October issue of the monthly supplement Kuukausiliite, 1.01.2011
Glazunov portrait of President Kekkonen finds home at Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma (12.5.2010)
UNTO HÄMÄLÄINEN / Helsingin Sanomat