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KØS

Denmark’s only
museum of art
in public spaces

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KØS
Nørregade 29
DK 4600 Køge
+45 56 67 60 20
info@koes.dk

Tuesday-Sunday 11-17
Monday closed
40 min from
Copenhagen H

IN THE ARCHITECHT’S HOUSE
ELINA BROTHERUS ON ALVAR AALTO

March 1 – June 2 2024

Elina Brotherus Elissa's Room 2020
Elina Brotherus: Elissa’s Room, from the series In the Architect’s House, 2020.

In her three new photographic series, visual artist Elina Brotherus takes us deep into the heart of Alvar Aalto’s architecture. The new photographic series by Elina Brotherus, one of Finland’s most internationally acclaimed artists, are captured in three key Aalto buildings in Finland: Aalto’s home in Helsinki, his summer cottage also known as the ‘Experimental House,’ and the modernist masterpiece Paimio Sanatorium.

The three new series are now being exhibited for the first time in Denmark through a collaboration between KØS Museum of Art in Public Spaces and the Alvar Aalto Museum, where they premiered in 2023. In 2019, the Aalto Foundation granted the artist exclusive access to photograph in Alvar and Aino Aalto’s home in Helsinki and Alvar’s and his second wife Elissa’s private summer villa, the Experimental House in Muuratsalo. The summer villa is a pilgrimage destination for designers and architects due to the couple’s numerous material experiments conducted in the central, beautiful courtyard. It is brought to life in Elina Brotherus’ masterfully composed photographs and takes on a new vitality and presence.

Usually, visiting these two houses is limited and requires guided tours, but through Elina Brotherus’ photographs, we gain rare access to the Aalto’s unique and significant architecture and furniture design. Her photographs bring us close to the residents of the house in the photographs, feeling as though they just temporarily left the house, allowing the guest, Elina Brotherus’ fictional female figures, to settle in. Simultaneously, we come into close contact with the design language that we share as a common Scandinavian heritage. In this way, the private and public dimensions are deeply interconnected in Brotherus’ works; the aesthetics and design language in the globally renowned and influential architect’s private homes are foundational icons in our shared cultural understanding, reminding us of the significant impact the design of the spaces we live in has on our well-being and self-understanding. It also emphasizes that even the most iconic architecture is only fully brought to life when experienced with our bodies and perspectives.

Presence and Light
Elina Brotherus has used herself as a model in her photographs throughout her career, and it is precisely through her simultaneously elegantly distant and significant presence in the works that we too get the opportunity to be present in these iconic spaces. Across time, we are invited inside as guests, creating our personal connection to spaces that are usually only available through more sanitized documentary photographs of the architectural milestones.

And then there is the light. Brotherus’ photographs of the Aalto couple’s two homes and the central landmark in international modernism, Paimio Sanatorium, capture the significance of light in Aalto’s architecture in a wonderfully enchanting way, creating a rare intensity in the images. This intensity, along with Brotherus’ ability to compose three-dimensional spaces on a flat surface, gives her photographs the striking painterly quality she is also renowned for.

To complete the narrative of the artist’s interaction with Alvar Aalto’s architecture and design, the exhibition also features the series Les Femmes de la Maison Carré from 2015-2018, her first series on architecture, photographed in the only building Aalto designed in France, where Brotherus resides.

KØS Museum of Art in Public Spaces wants to thank Elina Brotherus, Alvar Aalto Museum, Jyväskylä Art Museum and Gallery Martin Asbæk. The new series of works in the exhibition were displayed at The Space Exhibition at the Alvar Aalto Museum/Aalto2 Museum Centre in 2023-2024. The exhibition was part of the three-part exhibition series Space–Time–Movement, produced in collaboration between Aalto2 Museum Centre, Jyväskylä Art Museum, and The Centre for Creative Photography in Jyväskylä, Finland.

Elina Brotherus Stairs
Elina Brotherus: Stairs, from the series Sanatorium, 2022.

About Elina Brotherus
Elina Brotherus’ art has been alternating between autobiographical and art historical approaches. Her early series on subjective experiences gave way to works dealing with the human figure and the landscape, the relation of the artist and the model. In her current practice, she is revisiting Fluxus event scores and other written instructions for performance-oriented art of the 1950s-70s. Another recent theme is architecture: Brotherus photographs in private houses designed by important architects, taking roles of various imagined characters. Her tranquil presence breathes life into these iconic spaces of architectural heritage.

Elina Brotherus lives and works in Helsinki, Finland, and Avallon, France. She has an MA degree in Photography from the University of Art and Design Helsinki (now Aalto University) and an MSc in Chemistry from the University of Helsinki. She has been awarded, among others, the Artist Professorship Grant of the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (2022-2026), Carte blanche PMU, France (2017), the Finnish State Prize for Photography (2008), and the Prix Niépce of Gens d’image (2005). Her works are in over 80 public collections including the Pompidou Centre, Paris, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, LACMA, Los Angeles, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

In 2025, Elina Brotherus presents a new exhibition at Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg – the only museum outside Finland designed by world-renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. The exhibition will feature a new series by Brotherus created in dialogue with the museum’s iconic architecture and selected works from the collection.