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The conceptual family of outsider art was joined by a new member in the early 2000s when folk art by Finnish self-taught artists was discovered and named ITE art (from the Finnish phrase itse tehty elämä, or “self-made life”). 20 years have passed since the first ITE art exhibition. Since those days, a self-standing history of ITE art has been formulated. Although the artworks are highly idiosyncratic and unique, they often share certain themes and stylistic traits. The anniversary exhibition features works by both active and bygone folk artists from home and abroad as well as works from contemporary artists. Curators Minna Haveri, Liisa Heikkilä-Palo and Elina Vuorimies make individual artworks and stories part of a wider narrative of self-made lives.

                         NORDIC OUTSIDER CRAFT
                                     Roos house,
                   13 February 2020 – 29 March 2020

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Couple of hundred kilograms of massive-knit made of plastic bags, free crochet wolf hybrid,
60 pieces of needlepoint of Swedish districts. In addition, geometrical yarn mobiles and aphorisms twisted of iron wire. These are a preview of the works in theNordic Outsider Craft exhibition.

One can dive into the massive-knit installation by Danish Kenneth Rasmussen and Icelandic Erla Björk Sigmundsdóttir’s tightly packaged dolls tempt to play with them. Norwegian Wenche Nilsen’s figures are shouting in the storm, and the light bulb tiles by Torstein Nilsen are conversing smoothly with them. Rikhard Koivisto from Finland has made series of skillful wooden sculptures presenting paradise and ordinary life, whereas Swedish Magnus Östling respects his homeland by the series of needlepoint works about the different corners of the country with their special characteristics. In addition, the textile works by the Kellokoski Princess Anna Lappalainen are seen in the exhibition.  The exhibition features works from 25 artists from each Nordic country.

Nordic Outsider Craft shows what happens when handicraft does not follow the conventional rules, but goes wild with the joy of techniques and materials. However, self-expression goes hand in hand with the esteem of uncompromising skill and diligence that are required from the practicer of slow and laborious handicraft techniques. The techniques of the works range from soft textiles to ceramics and wood sculpting.

The exhibition of outsider art in K.H. Renlund museum in Kokkola challenges the verges of creativity and promotes the expressive power of handicraft techniques, the daring and the self-expression of the individual. Nordic Outsider Craft exhibition breaks the boundaries of handicraft tradition and surprises the audience by revealing craft based outsider art from the Nordic countries.

Nordic Outsider Craft defends soft values in art. Outsider art refers to such margins in art as self-taught artists and artists with disabilities. The exhibition declares that art belongs to everyone, and that there is not a single way to make works of art. Everybody has an equal right to express themselves with visual arts and creative artistic handicrafts. Attention has been paid also to the accessibility of information materials.

The curators of the exhibition are Art researcher Minna Haveri and Curator Elina Vuorimies from K. H.Renlund museum.


First Nordic Outsider Craft exhibition was in the Craft Museum of Finland last year. It was a start in the wider Nordic Outsider Craft project, which presents Nordic outsider craft. After Jyväskylä the exhibition travels to all the Nordic countries as a smaller curated composition. Now it will be shown in Norway, in Galleri Nord-Norge in Harstad. Main partner in Norway is Sør-Troms Museum and its department of Trastad Samlinger.

The project is based on a strong Nordic partnership network. The project and exhibition tour are administered by the K.H.Renlund museum in Kokkola. In addition to the Sør-Troms Museum the partners are the Craft Museum of Finland, Danish Bifrost Art School and Studio in Randers, Swedish Inuti Foundation in Stockholm, and Icelandic Safnasafnið Museum in Akureyri. Additionally, as a guardian and networker for artists with learning disabilities and experts and professionals in the field the Kettuki Art Centre offers the project its expertise on art by disabled people.

The Nordic Outsider Craft project was started with the help of OPSTART grant from the Cultural Foundation. Later it has been supported by the foundation’s HANDMADE themed funding and by the help of the Swedish Cultural Foundation.

The Finnish-Norwegian Cultural Foundation and the Nordic Culture Point have assisted the curator visits. The Uusimaa Regional Fund has supported the production of the part of the exhibition presenting the art embroidery by the Kellokoski Princess Anna Lappalainen.


Kenneth Rasmussen

Brit Lisbeth Johnsen
Herleik Kristiansen
Torstein Nilsen
Wenche Nilsen

Camilla Holmqvist
Chang Im Ohlson
Patricia Sigurd
Magnus Östling

Pálína Erlendsdóttir
Ragnar Hermannsson
Erla Björk Sigmundsdóttir
Guðjón R. Sigurðsson
Svava Skúladóttir

Rikhard Koivisto
Anna Lappalainen
Henna Laulainen
Torsten Lundmark
Lauri Mäkäräinen
Aleksi Pietikäinen
Matti Rauhaniemi
Mirjami Rautio
Samuli Sarkkila
Helinä Savonen
Johanna Seppä

The Craft Museum, Jyväskylä, Finland / 28 April – 2 December 2018
Art Gallery Filosoffen, Odense, Denmark / 20–31 March 2019
Aguélimuséet, Sala, Sweden / 25 May – 15 June 2019
Safnasafnið Museum, Akureyri, Iceland / 14 July – 8 September 2019
Galleri Nord-Norge, Harstad, Norway / 30 November 2019 – 10 January, 2020
K.H.Renlund Museum, Kokkola, Finland / 13 February – 29 March, 2020

Minna Haveri, Art researcher, minna.haveri (at), tel. 040 821 4217
Elina Vuorimies, Curator, K.H. Renlund museum, elina.vuorimies (at), tel. 044 780 9478

             K.H.Renlund Museum in Kokkola
             to receive remarkable donations
                from international collections

Current collections of ITE art, or Finnish contemporary folk art, are to increase on receipt of a significant number – almost 1,000 – works of art, as donations from international collections. The donations will expand the museum collection to include not only Finnish ITE art but also international naïve art and outsider art. ITE art is an essential part of the operations at the K.H.Renlund Museum – Provincial Museum of Central Ostrobothnia, which is located in Kokkola.

German collectors of naïve and outsider art, Dietz Mertin, as well as Elke and Werner Zimmer, will donate their collections to the museum in Kokkola, and these will be complemented by Philippe Saxer’s collection from Switzerland. These donations are to be added to the 400 works of art from Maija and Volker Dallmeier’s collection that are already housed in the museum. The scope of the K.H.Renlund Museum’s collection will be unique in the Nordic countries.

The Zimmer collection

Werner and Elke Zimmer worked in advertising. In 1970, they set up their eponymous gallery in Düsseldorf that exhibited naïve art. Theirs has been one of the leading and most recognised galleries in the field, and, when it closes, they are to donate some works from its large collection to the museum in Kokkola. The donation includes around 300 works, mostly paintings and 20 sculptures, and features some classic works by naïve and outsider artists from Central Europe, such as Erich Bödeker, Minna Ennulat, Max Raffler and Josef Wittlich. A significant number of the works are by Eastern Europeans artists, including Nikifor and Ondrej Šteberl, and artists from the former Yugoslavia such as Ivan Generalić, Ivan Rabuzin and Franjo Klopotan. The Zimmer collection will move to Kokkola in 2018.

The Philippe Saxer collection

Swiss collector of outsider art Max Ammann manages Philippe Saxer’s collection of works, which he wants to donate to museums specialising in the genre. Philippe Saxer (1965–2013) created his art at Waldau psychiatric hospital, where he was a patient. He left behind a vast body of art, which consists of thousands of paintings and drawings. The donation to the Kokkola museum will comprise 50 drawings. Saxer’s work has been displayed in dozens of exhibitions including Museum im Lagerhaus in St.Gallen, Switzerland, and museums in Japan, China, India, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Finland. The museum will receive the works in October 2018.

The Dietz Mertin collection

Dietz Mertin’s collection features around 500 works of both naïve and outsider art. Mertin forged a career in international financing and worked in New York and Brazil, among other places, before returning to Germany. He says that he started collecting art that he found pleasing due to its naïve forms and without any particular plans for his collection. Driven by his passion, he would find artists and art-makers in backwoods and edges of the savannah during family holidays. His search was often successful and his collection grew.

Mertin’s collection includes high-quality folk art from many countries, especially wooden sculptures from South America and Africa as well as votive images from the 17th and 18th centuries. It also features works by some important outsider artists such as Nikifor from Poland, Wölfl, Trillhase, Emma Stern and Schröder-Sonnenstern from Germany, Chico da Silva from Brazil, Bauchant from France and Liataud from Haiti. Mertin’s collection comes to Kokkola as a bequest.

The new international profile

The K.H.Renlund Museum, which up until now has focused on Finnish contemporary folk art, will revamp its image through the donations it will receive from abroad. The emphasis of the content will expand to international phenomena and artists of naïve and outsider art. 

ITE art activities started in Kaustinen in 2001 as a result of the surveys of contemporary folk art carried out by the Association for Rural Culture and Education. The ITE collections became part of the K.H.Renlund Museum – Provincial Museum of Central Ostrobothnia in 2009. The museum operates in a public-private partnership with the Association for Rural Culture and Education.

The Association’s surveys were the basis for what became known as ITE art, or Finnish contemporary folk art. Over the years, the surveys have found hundreds of ITE artists across Finland, and their works have been displayed in exhibitions in Finland and overseas. There are currently around 1,100 catalogued works of ITE art in the collection managed by the museum.

In addition to its operations in Finland, the K.H.Renlund Museum has also been actively involved in the international outsider art scene as a networker, specialist and organiser of exhibition exchanges. The Museum is also a member of the European Outsider Art Association.

Through its networks and partnerships, the museum has been working together with numerous organisations abroad, including the abcd collection in Paris and the Max Ammann collection. The activities have included specialist and exhibition collaboration for many years. The network also includes Museum in Lagerhaus in St Gallen, Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, Galeria Herenplaats in Rotterdam, Inuti in Stockholm, Tallinn Art Hall and Göteborgs Konsthall in Gothenburg.
The travelling exhibition Nordic Outsider Art – Pehmeetä touhua, launched by the K.H.Renlund Museum, is currently working together with the Craft Museum of Finland and partners in other Nordic countries, including the Trastad collection in Harstad, Norway, the art school and studio Bifrost in Randers, Denmark, the Inuti Foundation art studios in Stockholm, Sweden, and the Safnasafnið Museum in Akureyri, Iceland.

The museum is preparing a travelling exhibition of ITE art for 2020 in collaboration with some of the most important art museums in Finland to mark 20 years of ITE art. The exhibition will feature works from collections of artists and museums, and its special theme will be the Nordic Countries and Russia.
For more information, please contact Museum Director Kristina Ahmas on +358 44 7809 574

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Updated 20/02/2020 | Send feedback | Print