Dinner at Herman’s was salmon and trout, grilled fresh in a gorgeous beetroot sauce.

SARVISALO, FINLAND - I was fortunate to spend a weekend at the Zabludowicz Collection in Sarvisalo, a beautiful island near Helsinki, which is one of the homes of the art-loving Zabludowicz family.  On three different sites on this small island they have restored old homes and barns, filled them with works from their very cutting-edge contemporary collection, and created an international residency program for invited artists, mainly British and American.  The weekend was an unveiling of sorts, and the guests, many patrons of the Tate, and artists, happily mingled for many events at the three locations, each named for their previous owners – Herman’s, the Carpenter’s House, and Suvikunta.

The Finnish landscape was breathtaking, and the fields were lush green with an opulence of baby’s breath and lupine at every turn. We had a tour of the archipelagos by boat, and many (although not me) spent their free time moving between the hot sauna houses that were ubiquitous in the landscape, and the icy Baltic (my only “icy” experience were shots of vodka).  This went on literally all night long, aided and abetted by the fact that we had only about an hour of darkness.

Lunch at Suvikunta was an assortment of smoked fish, a Finnish specialty.

Anita and Poju Zabludowicz and their director Elizabeth Neilson were such gracious hosts. The cuisine was remarkable, all sourced from local ingredients, and so fresh and inventive. Fish, usually smoked, was at the heart of everything and made an appearance at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some of the meals were more casual buffets that allowed for convivial discussions, but my favorite was a more formal seated dinner on Saturday night at Herman’s, a beautifully restored 17th century wooden Manor House. Among the highlights was a creamy mushroom soup laced with spinach and leeks – no one left a drop in their bowls. Afterwards, we were served the salmon and trout, grilled fresh in a gorgeous beetroot sauce, so sweet I thought it was made from berries.

Artist Richard Woods’s Stone Clad Cottage.

I loved the art, and was particularly taken with Richard Woods’s Stone Clad Cottage, altered in the style for which he is known, but yet bearing all the traces of the original structure. Erin Sheriff’s Roden Crater was a big discovery for me, a silent video that depicts James Turrell’s Roden Crater. While it looked as if she had visited the site and filmed it through cycles of changing light, it was actually created from hundreds of still images shot in her studio, which she manipulated with different lighting situations. It reminded me of the ever-changing Finnish light as it danced across the fields and sea.  Another standout was Toby Ziegler’s The Alienation of Objects. Here the artist reinstalled a series of large-scale aluminum sculptures that heavily reference the history of Modernism, but connected them with a network of heavy wooden rails.

Toby Ziegler’s The Alienation of Objects, installed at the Zabludowicz Collection in Sarvisalo, Finland.