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​Esplanadi Cultural Park

The Esplanadi Park, colloquially known as Espa, was built in the 1810s following the ideals of French formal gardens. Helsinki had just been pronounced the new capital city of Finland, sparking a need for presentable recreational areas. The Esplanadi promenade also served as a stage for the urban gentry.

The Esplanadi Park has always been a place for enjoying art. This summer, the Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama has lined the park with her intensive dotted fabrics. The promenade is also the permanent home of many sculptures. At the eastern end, a small child rejoics on the tail of a mermaid. The model is said to be the daughter of sculptor Victor Jansson, the beloved artist Tove Jansson - then at 26 years of age.

At the opposite end of the park stands Gunnar Finne's sculpture "Fact and Fable", a tribute to the Finnish fable writer Zachris Topelius. Two figures, Fact and Fable, carry a torch and a fairy tale bird. The sculpture was removed from the park for the war years, and upon their return the statues were placed back the wrong way around - something the modest sculptor chose to not interfere with. "Fact and Fable" caused a commotion already upon its unveiling, as it was the first non-representational memorial to a notable figure. Nowadays, Finne's old atelier can be visited in the Töölö district - today housing the acclaimed restaurant Ateljé Finne.

A recreational highlight for Helsinkians since 1887 has also been the Esplanadi outdoor stage, originally built in the shape of a shell. The stage hosts free daily concerts ranging from classic Finnish poetry to bossa nova, jazz and sing-a-longs.

Yayoi Kusama: Täplien nousu puihin, 2016 (installaationäkymä Helsingistä). Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/ Singapore; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo: HAM / Maija Toivanen