Artist(s):Heikki Nieminen Date:1982 Medium:bronze Dimensions:260 x 650 cm Collection:Finnish State Art Deposit Collection, Finnish National Gallery, 1979 B 24/82 Location:Main Building, Yliopistonmäki

Already in the 1950s, architect Aarne Ervi, the principal designer for the University of Turku Main Building, put forward the idea of a large-scale artwork to be hung on the back wall of the building’s lobby. During a dinner party held in celebration of the unveiling of Wäinö Aaltonen’s (1894–1966) fountain sculpture Genius Guides Youth on 12 May 1961 at restaurant Suomalainen Pohja, Aaltonen promised to prepare a sketch for a monumental painting to be hung in the Main Building’s lobby, in accordance with Ervi’s design. The idea gained momentum and before the dinner was over, the parties had drawn up an agreement and even settled on a price. The deal was, however, forgotten by the parties after the evening. Rector Tauno Nurmela took the matter into his own hands five years later, and on 31 May 1966 set out to meet Aaltonen in Helsinki to remind him of his promise. To his great shock, Nurmela learned on the day of his departure that Aaltonen had passed away the previous day. It remains unclear whether the artist had remembered the agreement or made plans for the work.

Ervi’s idea was left on the self for nearly two decades, until February 1979, when Rector Osmo Ikola proposed to the State Art Commission the acquisition of an artwork in honour of the University’s 60th anniversary. A few months later, the State Art Commission organised an invitational competition between five artists, which sculptor and graphic artist Heikki Nieminen’s entry won.

Nieminen’s work was meant to be unveiled at the University’s anniversary celebrations in 1980, but due to difficulties in the casting process, its completion was delayed by a few years. The finished, nearly 700-kilogram bronze relief, Construction, was unveiled on 12 May 1982. The work can be seen as symbolic of the University’s post-war construction as well as an homage to all who have worked at and participated in founding and developing the University, both private individuals and the Finnish state.

Heikki Nieminen (1926–2016) studied at the Vocational School of Applied Arts in the late 1940s and at the School of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland at the turn of the decade. His works include the sculptures Hymytyttö and Hymypoika, plaster copies of which have been awarded to schoolchildren since 1954. During his career, Nieminen also worked as a teacher, for example, at the School of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland, where his students included Raimo Äijälä (b. 1941) in the 1960s. Nieminen received the Pro Finlandia Medal in 1964.

Emma Vuolaslempi 2024

Ahtola-Moorhouse, Leena. “Kuvanveistäjä aloitti hymypojasta.” Helsingin Sanomat, 15 October 2016.

Ikola, Osmo. “Miksei Turun yliopistossa ole Wäinö Aaltosen seinämaalausta.” Taidekokoelmia koskevaa 1974–1987, X Heb:1, University of Turku Central Archives.

Koskinen, Mirva, ed. Silmin nähden. Taideteoksia Turun yliopiston arkkitehtuurissa – Art in Architecture at the University of Turku. Turku: University of Turku, 1997.

Osmo Ikola’s letter to the State Art Commission, 1 February 1979. Taidekokoelmia koskevaa 1974–1987, X Heb:1, University of Turku Central Archives.

“Professori Osmo Ikola: Korkokuva-ajatuksen taustaa.” Taidekokoelmia koskevaa 1974–1987, X Heb:1, University of Turku Central Archives.

“Rakentaminen, 1944–1982.” Finnish National Gallery, n.d.