Espoo Museum of Modern Art

First major solo exhibition of Tapio Wirkkala set to tour in Japan in 2025–2026

Tapio Wirkkala © Maaria Wirkkala, Tapio Wirkkala, Neliö (detail), 1950s. © Ari Karttunen / EMMA
Tapio Wirkkala © Maaria Wirkkala, Tapio Wirkkala, Neliö (detail), 1950s. © Ari Karttunen / EMMA

Tapio Wirkkala: The Sculptor of Ultima Thule exhibition will be seen in several venues in Japan during 2025–2026, marking the first major solo exhibition of Wirkkala in Japan. The exhibition will present a complete picture of the iconic Finnish designer, centring on Wirkkala’s unique creative process, with a special focus on his creative mind and the environments that inspired him.

Starting in 2025, the exhibition celebrates the 110th anniversary of the birth of Tapio Wirkkala (1915–1985). Wirkkala is considered the leading light of Finnish modernist design and a visionary artist of exceptional breadth whose oeuvre embraced a variety of objects, graphic and industrial design, exhibition architecture, buildings, sculptures, and environmental art. The extensive touring exhibition in Japan, titled The Sculptor of Ultima Thule, is jointly curated by EMMA and collaborating venues, and will offer a comprehensive exploration of the artistic production of Wirkkala. 

Consisting of around 300 works, the exhibition will showcase Wirkkala’s innovative repertoire from rarely displayed plywood sculptures to design objects and prototypes for Iittala, Venini and Rosenthal among others. The display will create a look into the two central landscapes of his life, Lapland, and Venice. 

The majority of the pieces are curated from the Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation Collection, which is the largest existing selection of works of Tapio Wirkkala and his spouse Rut Bryk. The collection is founded on the personal archives of the artist couple and has been deposited and displayed at EMMA since 2017. The Sculptor of Ultima Thule will include a large selection of glass and silver pieces loaned from Collection Kakkonen, Finland’s leading collection of modernist glass and ceramic art. The works will be prepared at EMMA in anticipation of the upcoming exhibition tour. 

The Japan tour of The Sculptor of Ultima Thule will start in 2025 at Tokyo Station Gallery, in celebration of Wirkkala’s 110th birth anniversary. During 2025–2026, the exhibition will tour in several venues around Japan, which will be announced later. 

The exhibition has been co-produced by EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation and the Japanese company Blue Sheep.

Read more