Jaakko Heikkilä: Rooms Hidden by the Water

24.01.2018 - 25.02.2018

Exhibition opening on Wed 24.1. at 5pm

Exhibition is opend by Mirva Keltanen, Head of Exhibitions, The National Gallery of Finland

”Children are scratching letters into stones on Campo Santa Maria Formosa. Pigeons are whistling on the San Marco Square. A sparrow sits on the edge of an empty glass left on a table, takes a look inside and goes on its way. I draw a line on the green water; the roofs gilded by the sun, the frames of the windows diffuse. Until the pieces settle back together, the stone fundaments go down into the murky water.

”He opens an enormous glass door and again Canal Grande whiffs moist. ”Nobility, aristocracy” he notes cogently. Statues, personalities from the past, like living memories, the people brightened by the day, close their eyes in a spacious hall. The paintings on the wall. Golden crowns coming from the ceiling like illuminated sea lanes.”

Quotations from the book:

Jaakko Heikkilä, Rooms Hidden by the Water. 

Publications of National Museum 9, Maahenki, Helsinki 2016.

Rooms Hidden by the Water takes the viewer on a journey to Venetian aristocracy, into the hundreds of years old European richness. Jaakko Heikkilä has gotten access into the world that is closed from the millions of tourists of Venice. He has photographed the private palaces of the city and the inhabitants of those palaces, who ruled the republic of Venice for centuries.

The project about Venetian nobility began in 2005, when Heikkilä was working on his series about the Armenian diaspora. A friend of Heikkilä living in Venice and belonging into an old Armenian noble family told him: “True nobility is disappearing. If you want to create something with Venetian nobility, I can help you.” The Armenian aristocrat was talking about the old idea “noblesse oblige –nobility obliges” and the disappearance of it.

The project truly started in the years 2009 and 2010 with the help of Agnes Kohlmeyer, Professor of Contemporary Art and Art History in the Venice University, who arranged Heikkilä possibilities to meet and photograph the nobility.  Heikkilä is fascinated not only by the sophisticatedness but also the sadness of the Venetian nobility. A long history is also a burden that creates certain melancholy and weight.

Only few of the nobility live in the palaces anymore. They are transformed into hotels or they are ending up possessed by rich Americans or Russians. According to Venetian nobility they are a crowd of only a hundred people anymore, and the number is decreasing. Direction of development is the same all around Venice. The original inhabitants move away and tourists replace them.  On the other hand the future of Venice depends also upon if the water level continues to rise or f it can be dammed. For example on the Marcus Square the water often reaches knee-height levels, as can be seen in one of the photographs of the exhibition. If the water level still reaches higher, Venice will depopulate.

Jaakko Heikkilä was born in 1956 in Kemi. He graduated as an engineer from the University of Oulu in 1983 and worked as a researcher in the Academy of Finland until the end of 1989. From the year 1990 he has been an independent photographer. Heikkilä has had private and group in the most European countries, USA and South America, for example in Venice Biennale in 2005.

Heikkilä received the State Prize for photographic art in 2007 and won the international art competition “Time and Nature” in Hanau, Germany in 2002. He was granted with the Lapland Art Prize in 1993 and the Barents Cultural Stipend in 2017.

Photo art book “Rooms Hidden by the Wter” is the eighth individual work by Jaakko Heikkilä. The  Rooms  Hidden by Water exhibition has been exhibited in the National gallery in Helsinki in 2016 and in Korundi in Rovaniemi in 2017. The exhibition has been produced by the National Gallery. 


The exhibition is introduced on Kiertelemättä gallery tour on Thu 1.2. at 5pm.

The tour is free of charge and open to anyone.


  • Palazzo Malipiero
  • Raimondo And Laura
  • At Griman's Palace