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President Sauli Niinistö is standing next to his portrait that was revealed on May 4, 2018 at the Presidential Room of the Government Palace. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The members of the government were standing in their suits and dresses in a line while holding glasses of bubbly in their hands in the Government Palace while the clock was approaching 11:30 on Monday.

They were standing next to President Sauli Niinistö in a glamorous and shiny room, the Presidential Room, where the walls were covered with portraits of previous heads of the government and where the presidential sessions of the government are held and where the president signs acts and decrees.

At the back wall, an artwork was hanging under dark curtains.

The curtains were pulled off. Slowly. The time was 11:21.

The first thing you noticed was how colorful the portrait was. President Niinistö observed the piece with a shy smile on his face.

A toast was raised. And another one for the one hundred artists—including graphic artists, sculptors, painters, video and performance artists and photographers—who had created this mosaic of President Niinistö.

After the ceremony, Niinistö was asked what he thought about the portrait.

“It looked somewhat what I expected,” he said adding that “he hadn’t seen the portrait before.”

What was it like to sit as a model?

“It was created from a photograph.”

Do you like the portrait?

“Yes. Yes.”

Niinistö said that the artwork digs deeper than the surface. It’s multidimensional, and while the previous portraits of the presidents look very traditional, the colorful mosaic was accepted as the format because of the fantastic work that Niinistö had experienced while working with the artists before.

What do you think, dear reader?

Judge for yourself.

More about the portrait of President Sauli Niinistö

The idea for this mode of implementing the portrait dates back to 2012 when, as the newly elected President Sauli Niinistö was given a community art portrait as a visual congratulatory greeting. At that time the artwork, directed by a working group of students from the Lahti Institute of Art, took a stand in support of art schools under threat of closure.

Inspired by the artwork of 2012, and in the spirit of the “together theme” of Finland’s centenary year celebrations, the president invited one hundred artists to contribute to his portrait. First he was photographed for the portrait. The photograph was then divided into one hundred parts that were distributed to the invited artists by drawing lots. These served as the starting point for the artists. The artists were given artistic freedom to interpret their own part of the artwork, and they worked independently without knowledge of each other. The completed parts were assembled to form the artwork. The mosaic presents the spectrum of modern art—the artists represent a vast range within the field of art.

The public will have the opportunity to view President Niinistö’s portrait when it is on display at the Ateneum Art Museum in June 2018.