Dance! Movement in the Visual Arts 1880–2020
Oulu Museum of Art 8.10.2022–15.1.2023

Can dance be captured in an artwork? Can bodies in motion be frozen as images?

Dance! invites you to experience a meeting of two art forms: dance and visual art. The works featured convey the spectrum of affect that can be expressed through dance: from passion, bliss and joie de vivre to wistfulness, sorrow and vulnerability. Bodies in motion radiate with life and energy, but they also carry a reminder of our lack of defence to fatigue, illness, and the inexorability of death.

At the heart of the exhibition are collections of Finnish art museums from the 20th century, and how the works in the collections reflect embodiment and motion but also currents in the history of art and culture at large – while at the same time touching on broader social questions. On one hand, dance is associated with the idea of liberating and revolutionary joy, but, on the other hand, with the precise and focused practice of choreographed movement. The exhibition explores how aestheticized movement has been represented in the visual arts as two-dimensional images and three-dimensional forms, and how the moving body has embodied different identities, gender roles and cultural ideals.

Dance and visual art were mutually enriched by creative cross-pollination throughout the 20th century. The breakthrough of modernism at the turn of the 20th century coincided with a period of societal and economic upheaval and radical changes such as urbanization, the emergence of new art forms, scientific progress, and women’s emancipation. Modern dance echoed the women’s liberation movement, which also found reflection in the visual art of this period.

One of the underlying precepts of 20th century dance was the idea that there is only one "true" dance: the unique, expressive kind. The same expectation of individual self-expression still lives on today in both contemporary art and dance. Both art forms also continue to reflect, spotlight and critique prevailing social constructs of gender, class, race, and national identity.

The exhibition includes works by nearly 60 artists from the late 19th century to the present day, including Auguste Rodin, Louise Bourgeois, Elina Brotherus, Edgar Degas, Niilo Hyttinen, Kaija Kiuru, Heta Kuchka, Leena Luostarinen, Kalervo Palsa, Laila Pullinen, Aurora Reinhard, Tyko Sallinen, Hugo Simberg and Ville Vallgren. The diverse selection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, installations, objects and video works will be displayed on both floors in all of the museum's galleries.

The exhibition is based on the original concept of the HAM Helsinki Art Museum, curated by art and cultural historian Hanna-Reetta Schreck and exhibition curator Merimaa. Schreck and chef curator Elina Vieru are responsible for the updated version of the exhibition presented in Oulu and the new selection of works.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a number of events, more information about which can be found in the Museum's events calendar. In collaboration with: Oulu Art School, JoJo – Oulu Dance Centre and the exhibition's participating dancer-choreographer, visual artist Sonja Jokiniemi.

Above: Elina Brotherus: Étude en trois parties de danseuse défaisant son chignon, 2007, chromogenic colour print on aluminium, HAM Helsinki Art Museum. Photo: Maija Toivanen.

Banner: Louise Bourgeois: Triptych for the Red Room (3), 1994, aquatint, drypoint, copper engraving, HAM Helsinki Art Museum. Photo: Maija Toivanen.


Experience and explore art with children 

The Muksuboxi activity boxes are designed for families, day-care centres and pre-school groups to provide some extra inspiration on museum visits. The boxes can be found on the first floor of the Oulu Museum of Art and can be taken free of charge with you on your tour. There are three boxes available, and they can also be booked in advance for your visit (for a day-care group, for example) from our customer service at +358 44 703 7471.

Printable materials (pdf)
Children’s activity box, instructions and assignments


Explore the exhibition with dancing museum assistant Valtteri Moilanen


Video: Mika Friman


Rauha Mäkilä: I Wanna Rock Your Body, 2007, acrylic, Oulu Museum of Art. Photo: Mika Friman.

Antti Holma: Long Dance, 1986, woodcut, Oulu Museum of Art. Photo: Mika Friman.

Tyko Sallinen, Devil’s Dance (detail), 1919, The Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Ari Karttunen / EMMA.

Leena Luostarinen, Invitation to Dance, 2003, The Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Matti Ruotsalainen.

Pirkko Räntilä: Rapture of Youth, 1999, raku sculpture, Oulu City Collection. Photo: Anu Mykkänen.

Yrjö Saarinen: Dance at Hyvinkää, 1938, oil on canvas, HAM Helsinki Art Museum, Leonard and Katarina Bäcksbacka Collection. Photo: Maija Toivanen.