The Finnish exhibition of Brad Pitt, Nick Cave and Thomas Houseago remains mainly a solo exercise

The Finnish exhibition of Brad Pitt, Nick Cave and Thomas Houseago remains mainly a solo exercise

It’s not the winding road that climbs between the wooden houses or the smoke that rises above the aromatic conifers that gives you the feeling of being in an early Christmas movie during a visit to Tampere, Finland. It’s the slowly growing pilgrimage of fans heading to the Sara Hildén Art Museum in search of two superstars.

Since its opening in September, the artworks in the WE exhibition by Brad Pitt and Nick Cave have attracted a steady stream of visitors, continuing to amaze the low-key residents of Finland’s second-largest city. The exhibition is a collaboration with artist Thomas Houseago and is considered Pitt and Cave’s official debut on the art scene. The immensely beloved rock star Cave is known as a creative, know-it-all and trained visual artist. Pitt’s aspirations to enter the world of museums came in a much more unexpected way.

But how do you openly look at the work of a world famous movie star? It already has “an enviable life,” noted an art critic for The Guardian. “It would be fair to the rest of us if he went down like other celebrities who mess with fine art.” Little by little, the skeptical view of the fruits of Pitt’s career change seemed to fade, and the reception became increasingly positive.

hollow eyes

The WE exhibition starts even before the public enters the Tampere museum. A huge, dark wooden statue of Houseago, with deep-socketed eyes, towers over visitors by the entrance. The Los Angeles-based British artist is known for his impressive sculptures in which he enlarges parts of the body. He finally landed as an established name in the art world after one of his sculptures was featured prominently at the Venice Biennale in 2011.

On the ground floor of the museum, different Houseago series are distributed throughout the rooms. The accompanying lyrics say that he explores the relationship between sculpture and architecture, that Japanese poetry inspired his paintings, and how art helps him overcome depression and anxiety. Although Houseago has the largest share in the exhibition, an overarching theme is missing.

Pitt, in particular, has been hailed within the exhibition and shows widely divergent works. The chandeliers he created as a gift for his friend Houseago appear to have been copied directly from the VT-wonen trade magazine. However, he manages to leave his own mark on the exhibition with his life-size male sculptures, although he leans heavily on Houseago’s visual language.

Overview of the WE exhibition hall in the foreground Self-inflicted gunshot wound at home and in the background Pointing at you, I saw myself, but this time it was too late. Van Brad Pitt. Photo by Jussi Koivunen

Brad PittSlave of our vices, 2017.

Photo by Jussi Koivunen


Isolated part

The fact that Pitt used his own body for the images and rolled across the cast in various positions caused a bit of an outlier in the buzz from the otherwise timid museum audience. Despite the matte plaster, the wall plaque Aiming at You, I Saw Me, But This Time It Was Too Late shines with its originality, and the work remains a powerful and layered indictment of gun violence in the United States. During the press opening of the exhibition, Pitt said that his artwork was created after reflecting on his flaws in relationships. If he wants to accept the allegations of physical and verbal abuse by his ex-wife, Angelina Jolie, it’s still open.

In the basement of the Sara Hildén Museum of Art, a Nick Cave poetic text about the devil hangs next to Pitt’s sculptures. Cave furthered his fascination with the mythological figure by capturing his life in a series of porcelain figurines. The Devil: A Life is Cave’s only contribution to the exhibition. The seventeen brilliant works in which the devil has to relate to the world from his birth to his death stand out for their refined workmanship among all the large-format and abstract sculptures.

nick caveDevil as Child, series uit The Devil – A Life, 2020-2022.

Photo Prudence Cuming Associates

nick caveDevil Returns from the War, part of The Devil – A Life series, 2020-2022.
Photo Prudence Cuming Associates

nick caveDevil Rides to War, part of The Devil – A Life series, 2020-2022.
Photo Prudence Cuming Associates

Distance

Both Houseago and Pitt and Cave display strongly masculine images. It is surprising that despite the immense reputation of the artists, a number of works seem to be detached from the names behind them. But without the umbrella of a consistent theme, there is also a distance.

We feel like three eccentric uncles have left some awesome random Christmas presents for the nieces and nephews they want to get involved with but don’t really know about anymore. Having fully unpacked the exhibit, he is satisfied with what is on offer, but still doesn’t understand exactly what they mean next.

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A version of this article also appeared in the November 25, 2022, newspaper.

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