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Congratulations ITE! It’s been 20 years since the first ITE art exhibition. During the anniversary tour, ITE celebrates with its friends from the fields of outsider and contemporary art.

When ITE entered the Finnish art scene at Kaustinen Folk Art Centre’s exhibition in 2000, hardly anyone realised that it had come to stay. The public, however, immediately embraced ITE art, and it has been hugely popular ever since. The jubilee year exhibition Destined for Creativity – ITE and Friends is a touring exhibition that will be launched at the ITE Museum in Kokkola, after which it will move on to the Art Museums in Oulu and Hämeenlinna. The tour is compiled by art researcher Minna Haveri, producer Liisa Heikkiä-Palo and ITE curator Elina Vuorimies.

Destined for Creativity is a cross-section of the art that flourishes in the margins and still often remains an outsider of the art world. The themed sections of the exhibition display different forms of art, techniques of expression as well as the continuum of the art form from past to present; these interact with each other and relay their creators’ life stories.

Bright colours, expressiveness, childlike innocence, manic repetition and rough realism stand out as the dominant styles of expression. Typical subjects include animals, depictions of folk life, expression of opinion and dreamlike and paradise-like visions. Destined for Creativity takes viewers to the origins of creativity and shows the art audience paths through which individual works and stories become part of a larger narrative.

The first stop of the exhibition tour is Kokkola

The ITE Museum is the only permanent exhibition venue for ITE art, and its mission is to present new artists and fresh insights. The curators have selected artists and works not previously exhibited there for the Destined for Creativity exhibition. The raw expression typical of ITE and outsider art is present in the highly expressive paintings by the Dutch artist Paulus de Groot (b. 1977), inspired by adult entertainment. The present is humbly but open-minded about its past, which is represented in the exhibition by fine European classics of historical naive art collected by the German doctors Maija and Volker Dallmeier. Tyyne Esko (1920–2011), a Kokkola-based protest artist and champion of the poor, is accompanied by the works of Tampere-based Jyri Rasta (b. 1956), who expresses his dissenting views in his raku-fired ceramics.

Art environments cannot be brought to exhibitions; they must be experienced on site or, alternatively, they need to be presented in photos and videos, for example. But there are other ways to document art. Contemporary Scottish artist Mike Inglis (b. 1966) has been invited to participate in the Destined for Creativity exhibition. Inglis has been inspired by Elis Sinistö (1912–2004), the builder of Villa Mehu in Kirkkonummi, and though he never met Sinistö, he recreates Sinistö’s way of life for the public – and himself – to experience in a very concrete manner.

Visionaries form their own sector in ITE and outsider art. They have a connection to the parallel reality that they bring to life with images that are vision-like and sometimes difficult to interpret. The English artist known as Aradne (b. 1953) uses a sewing machine to create entangled figures that glow in sophisticated colours. Hanna Viitala (b. 1976) from Pori is one of the latest “discoveries” in ITE art. She reflects the ancient myths of femininity in her collages of objects.  

Destined for Creativity demonstrates that while ITE as an art form has established itself in the art scene, it has not just turned into something historical. Contemporary ITE lives among us and gives us hints of the future. The uniquely individual men and women in rural areas now have fellow artists in urban environments, where creativity continues to explore new horizons – as open-minded and self-confident as ever.

The exhibition tour has been produced in collaboration with the K.H. Renlund Museum and the Art Museums in Hämeenlinna and Oulu.

About ITE and outsider art

ITE art is the art of self-made life. ITE artists are not professional artists and they have not been trained in art making. Yet they have an outstanding visual skill, and making art has become a significant part of their lives. In ITE art, the message is often expressed by simple and accessible means. Creativity, open-mindedness, playfulness, inventiveness and craftsmanship are at the heart of ITE learning. Art is a channel of expression and an opportunity to leave traces in the surrounding world. It’s a way to be seen and to describe life, oneself, one’s dreams and opinions.

Like ITE art, outsider art also emerges from outside the art world. Traditionally, an artist without art education and grants is referred to as an outsider. Outsider art is often created in one’s home environment or in a supported artistic activity.

Ann-Mari Erichsen, Bergen, Norway
Aradne, Brighton, England
Tyyne Esko, Kokkola
Veli Granö, Porvoo
Paulus de Groot, Rotterdam
Tuula Huusko, Kajaani
Mike Inglis, Edinburgh
Jan Kaila, Helsinki
Väinö Oja, Paimio
Juha Pesonen, Tampere
Jyri Rastas, Tampere
Jukka Säntti, Sodankylä
Hanna Viitala, Pori

and works from the City of Kokkola’s Dallmeier collection

Minna Haveri, Art Reseacher, tel. +358 40-8214 217,
Elina Vuorimies, ITE Curator, K.H. Renlund Museum, tel. +358 44-780 9478,

Destined for Creativity tour

  • Kokkola, K. H. Renlund Museum 13 February – 26 April 2020
  • Oulu Art Museum 16 May – 20 September 2020
  • Hämeenlinna Art Museum 23 October 2020 – 7 March 2021

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

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             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 24/03/2020 | Send feedback | Print