Georgie Gaskin contributed to this report.
Sibelius Monument with its 600 upright stainless tubes of all lengths and diameters keeps attracting thousands and thousands of tourists to the site year round. On Thursday, the monument turned 50.
The creation of the sculpture resulted from a competition. The aim was to create a monument in honor of the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, who died in 1957. Fifty sculptors entered their sketches, and the winner was Finnish artist Eila Hiltunen with her uniquely abstract piece.
The monument resembles an organ, impressively measuring 10.5 meters in length, 6.5 meters in depth and 8.5 meters in height. Nestled amongst the trees, the stainless steel reflects the season and the pipes echo the peaceful sounds of nature.
There were much debate and outcry about the winner’s design being so different from the typical bronze statues of the time. After public discussion, Hiltunen could commence work on a “slightly modified” version of her sculpture which took four years to complete. The modifications included adding Sibelius’ face beside the main piece of art. The monument was unveiled on September 7, 1967, by President Urho Kekkonen.
Hiltunen (1922-2003) was a controversial artist of her time. She was better received abroad, in metropolises like Paris and New York than in Finland, where she was considered a bit too abstract. She enjoyed using welded pieces in her work, and in a book published in Italy, she compared the stages of welding to the feeling that the Greek god of blacksmiths Hephaestus had while working in his workshop.
During the decades, many children have enjoyed playing around the monument. “As a young child, I was playing at the Sibelius Monument, where there were a lot of other children as well. Below the monument, the children shouted words like “poop” up to the tubes. They also asked me to shout “poop.” I did,” an anonymous person said to the Helsinki Art Museum that collects memories of historical sculptures in Helsinki.
Last summer, there were so many tourist buses blocking Merikannontie, which leads to the monument, that the street had to be made into a one-way street. A video where a tourist bus decides to drive on the sidewalk to pass the oncoming traffic spurred the change in the traffic scheme.
Today, the traffic runs two ways.
But for how long?