Helsinki Design + Contemporary Art – Focus: Birger Kaipiainen

Birger Kaipiainen, "Käpy". Estimate: 4 500 - 5 000 EUR. For sale at Helsinki Design + Contemporary Art.


Birger Kaipiainen (1915–1988) began his art studies at the early age of 11 as a practice student at Taideteollisuuskeskuskoulu (the School of Art and Design) in Ateneum. By the end of his studies, he orientated towards scenic design and ceramics. Kaipiainen began his career at the Arabia Art Department in 1937 and quickly found his own way to make art. The soon-to-begin Winter War and several losses in his personal life cast a dark shadow over the beginning of his artistic career, and this manifested as sadness and longing in his early works. They are dominated by ethereal, fairy-tale-like characters depicted in pastel tones, with references to early Italian Renaissance and longing for a more beautiful world.

In the 1950s, Kaipiainen introduced three-dimensionality and graphic stylization in his work. The colour scheme also gradually became darker and more intense. Kaipiainen spent the years 1954–1958 in Sweden working as a studio artist at the Rörstrand porcelain factory. During that time, the artist could fulfil oneself and his production became progressively inspired by surrealism. A recurring theme over the decade was round-faced and slender female figures who either emerged from a table or the surface of the wall or was standing unattached as totemic figures. One example of Kaipiainen's work from this period is ‘Kaunotar’ (Beauty), now sold at Bukowskis.


After returning from Sweden, Kaipiainen was already a well-known artist both back home in Finland and abroad. The recognition allowed him more freedom, and he was given more space to express himself and his ideas in the Arabia Art Department. During that time, in addition to the focus on shape, the surface of the object became a central aspect of Kaipianen´s artworks. In the 1960s, Kaipiainen introduced ceramic beads to his art, threaded on an iron wire that was attached to the surfaces made out of plates. This was considered astounding at the time. Simultaneously, figures of human became less prominent motifs in his art and his work became even larger and more ornate. This period coincides with the decorative egg, now sold at Bukowskis. The motif, already luxurious in its origins, is glazed with pearls and exquisite colours, and it exudes lightheartedness reminiscing of Rococo. The same bulging shape is repeated in ‘Käpy’ (Cone), where a small and rough motif has acquired an impressive size and a glittering surface.

Contemporary critics, on one hand, admired Kaipiainen's unique art, but also criticized it of being preciosity. During the period of reconstruction, reduction and modesty were the cornerstones of home decor, and the connection between form and purpose was central in design. Kaipiainen boldly walked his own path and deviated from the unadorned mainstream with the unsurpassed ornamentation of his works.

Helsinki Design + Contemporary Art presents 14 sought-after design objects by Birger Kaipiainen. Discover the selection and place your bid here >

Picture: Birger Kaipiainen, a decorative egg. Estimate: 4 000 - 4 500 EUR.