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“I seek, do, find – and take pictures. I don’t interfere with the space, but the human presence awakens it.” – Elina Brotherus 

In October, the Aalto2 museum centre opens Elina Brotherus’ exhibition, Space. The works in the exhibition were photographed over the years 2019–2022 in three different Alvar Aalto buildings: the Aalto House in Helsinki, the Muuratsalo Experimental House in Jyväskylä and the Paimio Sanatorium. Elina Brotherus is one of Finland’s most internationally renowned, contemporary photography artists. The Aalto2 museum centre is showing these works for the first time.

Brotherus describes Alvar Aalto’s Maison Louis Carré, a private residence designed for a French art gallerist, as the source of her interest in architecture. Brotherus became acquainted with the building when she held an exhibition there in 2015.

“The Maison Carré inspired my enthusiasm for architecture. I think Aalto’s architecture is particularly theatrical: there are multiple spaces within spaces which open up into different perspectives where it is easy to place the human figure which is central to my work,” Brotherus explains.

Brotherus’ Aalto series differ from traditional architectural photography in that the images are inhabited by a person as the protagonist of the space.


The first of Brotherus’ series is Summer Guests which was photographed in 2019 at the Muuratsalo Experimental House (1952–54) which served as Alvar and Elissa Aalto’s summer villa.

”Although Aalto was already a well-known architect and a cosmopolite, he designed himself a very simple and unassuming summer cottage. There is something quite Finnish and touching about it.” Brotherus describes.

The second series, In the Architect’s House, was photographed in 2020, in Alvar and Aino Aalto’s home, The Aalto House  (1935–36) in Helsinki, and the third series was made at the Paimio Sanatorium (1929–33) in 2022.

Brotherus primarily photographs in private homes because she is interested in the dialogue between space and its inhabitant. For this reason, photographing the Paimio Sanatorium was an exception in her production.

”Paimio is an interesting place. It is of course the young Aalto’s international breakthrough, and is a bold, functionalist building in colour and shape. Despite being a public hospital, the sanatorium was nonetheless a home for its many patients and nurses, sometimes even for years,” discloses Brotherus.

Brotherus chooses the locations for her photographs carefully, although the images are not pre-planned in advance.

“I typically arrive with my camera, two lenses and a bag of clothes. I don’t go and buy any specific costumes for the images; I choose items from my wardrobe that suit the building’s era. With the clothes I can also bring in accents of colour or geometric forms. The images are formed spontaneously in situ: it is wonderful and exciting not knowing what I will find beforehand.”  

Elina Brotherus’ exhibition, Space, is on display at the Aalto2 museum centre from October 27th, 2023, until February 4th, 2024. This exhibition is part of the unprecedentedly extensive thematic exhibition compilation, Space–Time–Movement, produced in collaboration in Jyväskylä by the Aalto2 museum centre, the Jyväskylä Art Museum and the Ratamo Gallery.

Elina Brotherus  

Elina Brotherus works in photography and moving image. Her work has alternated between the autobiographical and art historical approaches. Her research in concepts of the subjective experience, the human figure and landscape, along with the relationship between artist and model have recently moved towards a more playful performative expression.

Brotherus lives and works in Helsinki and Avallon, France. She started exhibiting internationally in 1997. Brotherus’ work figures in many public collections such as the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, The Serlachius museums in Mänttä-Vilppula and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Brotherus is the recipient of numerous awards. She is currently working under the title of “Artist Professor” awarded from the Arts Promotion Centre Finland.

Aalto2 museum centre is a new venue for the intersection of architecture, design, and cultural heritage in Jyväskylä.  

Inquiries for the press: 

Teemu Rahikka 
tel. +358 44 799 5541

Inquiries about the exhibition:   
Exhibition Curator Mari Murtoniemi 
tel. +358 40 355 9162

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of Alvar Aalto (1898−1976). The architects and pioneers of modern design Alvar, Aino and Elissa Aalto made an exceptionally rich and varied career for themselves in Finland and abroad. During the year, the Alvar Aalto Foundation – along with its partners in collaboration – will be putting the spotlight on the story of Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office (1923−1994) and on the ideas that influenced its work; ideas that are still relevant today.