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Museum of the Museum

Curated by Joanna Warsza

Sörnäisten Rantatie 1, Helsinki, Finland

September-October 2017

Ilya Orlov artist

Museum of the Museum is an exhibition dedicated to the history of the Lenin Memorial Room, a museum that opened in Hakaniemi Square in 1976 and closed in 1995. Shortly before the October Revolution, Chief Kustaa Rovio of the Helsingfors police sheltered Lenin in this room for several weeks so that he could avoid prosecution by the provisional government. Here Lenin worked on his book State and Revolution and prepared for the uprising. Upon the museum’s closure in 1995, the apartment was sold to a private individual. For this research-based exhibition, Orlov has rented another apartment in the same building, where he recreated the museum for three weeks in October 2017 to coincide with the centennial of the revolution.

All the objects exhibited were the very pieces used in the original display of Lenin ‘memorial room’ in 1976-1995. The chairs, the dresser, the bed, and the bookcase are ‘authentic fakes’ – exact copies of Rovio’s belongings, manufactured in Moscow in 1975-1976 and now owned by Lenin Museum (Finnish Labour Museum Werstas, Tampere). The writing desk, the wall telephone, the ink well, and the chandelier are likewise from the original ‘memorial room’, and are now in the collections of Helsinki City Museum.

Exhibition Statement

Is Museum of the Museum a historical exhibition, or a piece of art? Posing it as a “this or that” question is not correct. Instead, the answer is dialectical: Museum of the Museum is a piece of art that has taken the form of a historical display. But if this 'piece of art' is taking the form of historical exhibition, what kind of historical exhibition is it, what is its subject? This is an exhibition on the museum of Lenin, which is not the same as an exhibition of a museum of Lenin. This is why this installation that recreates the display of the now-closed museum in the form of a temporary exhibition is called Museum of the Museum [of Lenin] rather than just Museum [of Lenin]...


Read the full Ilya Orlov's exhibition statement in the "Uncanny Interdependence" project brochure here.

On the History of the Lenin Museum in Hakaniemi Square


The existence of the Lenin memorial museum at the former Kustaa Rovio apartment in Hakaniemi Square was rather short – it lasted from 1976 to 1995. Originally named a “memorial room”, the museum was opened in a small flat on the 5th floor at Sörnäisten rantatie 1. Here, in August-September 1917, Chief of Helsingfors Police Kustaa Rovio sheltered Lenin for several weeks while he was hiding from the prosecution of the Provisional Government for being a 'German agent' due to his uncompromising anti-war stance. Rovio's apartment in Hakaniemi was Lenin's last hideout before the revolution. Here, Lenin conducted the theoretical work, prepared the uprising, and finished the book State and Revolution. There is a short memoir of Rovio about the period, entitled Kak Lenin skryvalsa u Gelsingforgskogo Polizmeistera (How Lenin hid at Helsingfors Chief Policeman's)...

Read the full text by Ilya Orlov here

Ilya Orlov artist

Mia Heinimaa, the Special Researcher at The Lenin Museum branch of The Finnish Labour Museum Werstas, visiting the exhibition. 30.10.2017. Photo by Anna Rawlings.

Ilya Orlov artist

Aimo Minkkinen, the ex-director of The Lenin Museum in Tampere, leaving his signature on the guest book of the exhibition. 30.10.2017. Photo by Anna Rawlings.

Ilya Orlov artist

Ilya Orlov, Mia Heinimaa, Aimo Minkkinen. 30.10.2017. Photo by Anna Rawlings.

Ilya Orlov artist

Exhibition guestbook.

Other material related to the show

Ilya Orlov in conversation with Joanna Warsza. Uncanny Interdependence symposium. 30. 09. 2017.

Guided tour to the exhibition by Ilya Orlov in conversation with Hami Bahadori (filmed as a greeting to the Red May Seattle 2018 festival).  Camera: Jo Kjaergaard.


Alexander Shapin, Mia Heinimaa, Aimo Minkkinen.


Acknowledgments (alphabetical order): 

Aimo Minkkinen, Alexander Shapin, Anna Rawlings, Eetu and Sini Mäkelä, Elina Kallio (Helsinki City Museum), Joanna Warsza, Jyrki Siukonen (Uniart Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts), Lassi Patokorpi, Mia Heinimaa (Werstas Museum), Mika Elo (Uniart Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts), Minna Henriksson, Natalia Nikonova (Smolny Museum), Nikolay Tretiakov (Smolny Museum), Saara Karhunen (Checkpoint Helsinki), Sezgin Boynik.

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