People queuing for the ’ARS 83 HELSINKI’ exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum in autumn 1983. Photographer Ilkka Leino. Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Collections – Fresh Viewpoints and New Openings

Hanna-Leena Paloposki, PhD, Archive and Library Manager and Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery


March 23, 2017


Collections are closely linked to the exhibition programme of the Finnish National Gallery’s three museums, collections exhibitions being an important part, and the research projects behind them always have their basis in our own collections.

TheStories of Finnish Art’ collections exhibition has now been on display at the Ateneum Art Museum for a year and will continue till 2020. When the project started, one of the leading ideas was to engage people from all the different areas of expertise in the museum to look at the collections and their display in a new way. From the start, the visual design was seen as an indispensable part of telling the stories of Finnish art. In an FNG Research interview Museum Director Susanna Pettersson and the exhibition designer Marcel Schmalgemeijer explain the process of making the collections exhibition at the Ateneum.

Sometimes temporary exhibitions form the starting point for new developments in collecting. The ‘ARS17 Hello World!’ exhibition at Kiasma (31 March, 2017 – 14 January, 2018), besides being a link in a chain of important international contemporary art shows in Finland, is also marking a new phase in collecting contemporary art for the FNG collections: starting an online artwork collection that is accessible on the web. It has required philosophical-theoretical thinking and the examination of legal, technical and conservational matters. How to buy and include in a museum collection an artwork that is digital, ephemeral and already available to all on the web and how to preserve it for future generations? In this issue FNG Research offers its readers two possibilities to get acquainted with this post-internet art: an interview with two chief curators of Kiasma, Arja Miller and Marja Sakari, and an article on online art by Arja Miller.

The new research internship programme that the Finnish National Gallery launched in March also has its focus on the collections. The programme has two aims. Finnish National Gallery wishes to emphasise the study of its collections, including artworks, archives, and objects. At the same time we wish to support students who choose to write their master’s level theses on subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data. In 2017 we are prepared to recruit three research interns, each for a period of three months, to study pre-chosen material in the Finnish National Gallery collections. We are also envisaging that the resulting reports and texts can be published in FNG Research. While writing this editorial the first application period is currently underway.

We are looking forward to welcoming our first research interns and a new kind of international collaboration with universities in order to enhance collections research together.

Featured image: People queuing for the ’ARS 83 HELSINKI’ exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum in autumn 1983. Photographer Ilkka Leino.
Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Pink Twins Infinity, 2016 online artwork, accessible at Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Commission

The Dance of the Digital

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

As ARS17 gets underway at Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, visitors will be able to view many of the artworks online from anywhere in the world. The show’s two curators, Marja Sakari and Arja Miller, discuss the implications of online art for museum professionals and its impact on collecting and conservation practices 

I am sitting in a glass-panelled office in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, one of the Finnish National Gallery’s three art museums, in Helsinki, with two of the curators of its upcoming exhibition, ARS17. Over coffee, they show me an artwork that I can access on my smartphone by a Finnish artist duo, Pink Twins. The work, called Infinity, consists of an interactive sound platform, with a library of sound material that I can use to create mixes from four stereo tracks, manipulating them individually to alter the combinations and qualities of the sound. It includes instructions for use, as well as FAQs for ‘visitors’. Once I have created my unique piece of music, then I just save and download the mp3 version, and share in Facebook. Wow, I am an artist! Hello World!

One of the key developments in contemporary art practice this century has been the use of the internet and the possibilities for art-making it offers – like, for example, producing works online. Ever since the American art theorist Lucy Lippard predicted the dematerialisation of the art object in the late 1960s, the trajectory of conceptual art has left an indelible mark on art processes. Now that the millennial generation of digital natives is bringing these ever-evolving new media to the table, art museums and collectors are facing fresh challenges in finding ways not only to curate digital art, but also to collect it. With only a few museums supporting dedicated accessible online art archives – the Whitney Museum in New York being one of the pioneers in the field with its Artport website – Kiasma’s ‘ARS17 Hello World!’ is at the forefront of bringing online art into the fold.

Featured image: Pink Twins, Infinity, 2016, online artwork, accessible during ‘ARS17’ at
Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Commission

Read more — Download ‘The Dance of the Digital’ by Gill Crabbe as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

ARS 17 Hello World!’ 31 March 2017 – 14 January, 2018, Museum of Contemporary Art
Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki; ‘ARS17+’, visit

Tuomo Rainio: Untitled (Gravitation Waves), 2017 Nimetön (Gravitaatioaallot), 2017 Kiasman komissioteos / Kiasma Commission

The Second Coming of Online Art

Arja Miller, MA, Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Also published in Leevi Haapala, Eija Aarnio, Jari-Pekka Vanhala (eds.), ARS17 Hello World! Taide internetin jälkeen / Art After the Internet. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 156/2017. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, 2017, 174–175

‘The internet is a monument to an ever-changing present.’
 Angelo Plessas

‘Program or be programmed.’
 Douglas Rushkoff

Kiasma’s ARS17 exhibition (31 March, 2017 – 14 Jan, 2018) is a response to the global digital revolution and its ubiquitous impact on our culture and daily behaviour. Over the past few years, new technology has radically changed our social relations, our everyday routines and our modes of interacting, communicating, feeling and bringing together communities. The impact of the digital revolution is also inescapably felt in the practice of art, and in the ways that art is presented and collected. A growing spectrum of noteworthy art is native to the internet, where it is also intended to be consumed and enjoyed, either via social media or mobile app. Given that Kiasma’s core mandate is to keep up with the latest trends and most interesting new practices in the field of contemporary art, we felt it was high time we reactivated ourselves as exhibitors and collectors of online works.

The ARS17 exhibition provided a timely impetus for this initiative. Parallel to the physical exhibition, we decided to curate an online exhibition spotlighting digital art and giving this growing genre the attention it deserves. ARS17+ spills outside the gallery walls into the virtual realm, where it can be enjoyed by anyone, any time, virtually anywhere in the world, via mobile device or any web browser/internet connection. Meanwhile, an interesting challenge is posed by the works that will remain permanently in Kiasma’s collection after the exhibition is over: How can our museum maintain and, above all, preserve a wide variety of digital artworks that rely on specific software and devices? How and in what environment will they be accessible after the ARS17 project is over?

Kiasma had already recognised the relevance of the internet as a forum for contemporary art back in the 1990s, when the web was still young and society embraced a wave of cyber-utopianism. Back then, there was a band of interesting Finnish artists busily experimenting with new media. Juha van Ingen and Mikko Maasalo co-organised Finland’s first-ever internet art project in 1995, when the Museum of Contemporary Art was still housed in the Ateneum building.[i] Visitors were invited to participate in the show by deconstructing, manipulating and reorganizing the exhibits as they desired. As related by Van Ingen, the project’s goal was to use art as a vehicle for exploring interactivity – an enduring topic of interest for online artists ever since the inception of the genre.[ii]

[i] The exhibition, ‘Re-evolution’, was listed in the Finnish National Gallery’s programme for 1995 as ‘an art exhibition staged in the Internet’.

[ii] Juha van Ingen’s email correspondence with the author, 5.9.2016.

Featured image: Tuomo Rainio: Untitled (Gravitation Waves), 2017
online art work, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Commission

Read more — Download ‘The Second Coming of Online Art’ by Arja Miller as a PDF

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Portraits of Finnish Artists. Stories of Finnish Art Collections Exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Retelling the Stories of Finnish Art

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

A year on from the opening of ‘Stories of Finnish Art’, the collections exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum, Director Susanna Pettersson reflects on how her team went about reinterpreting an art-historical narrative by means of collections display, while designer Marcel Schmalgemeijer explains his innovative approach to the visual presentation of the show

In 2014, when Susanna Pettersson became Director of Helsinki’s Ateneum Art Museum – one of the three museums of the Finnish National Gallery – the elegant Neo-Renaissance building was in the throes of renovation, with its permanent collections squeezed into just three rooms on the ground floor. Pettersson’s appointment was not only timely, but she was also well placed to effect a radical change in reworking the collections display, not only as someone with tailormade academic credentials – she did her PhD on the museum’s collections history – but also as a joint professor of museology with her finger sensitively on the pulse of trends in the field.

‘The building and how it works was very familiar to me,’ says Pettersson, ‘from the time that it started out in October 1888, as well as how the spaces have been used at different times. The collection, which covers the period 1809–1970, is the heart of the Ateneum, so for me it was clear that we needed to move the collections to the ground and first floors and temporary exhibitions to the second floor and I started the process of collecting a core team to discuss this.’ The team Pettersson was working with were looking for new ways to interpret the collection and new approaches to the collections research.

From the vision that resulted in the ‘Stories of Finnish Art’ exhibition that opened in 2016 (continuing through to 2020), two things stand out in the way that Pettersson marshalled these resources. First, she set about cultivating an environment of thinking outside the box, or as she puts it, ‘curiosity as a driver’, and secondly she inspired an unusually wide range of expertise to participate fully in the process.

The usual scenario for an exhibitions team would include a curator or two, designer, someone taking care of the educational side, another handling texts and catalogue, plus core technicians. Pettersson decided instead to gather the ‘largest possible team around the table’ comprising staff from all departments, including front-of-house staff, guides, gallery attendants, technicians, educational staff, research expertise, curators – ‘everyone who had in-house experience, such as visitor experience and how people use the collections and what they do and don’t appreciate.’

The range of expertise Pettersson has drawn on reveals much about her human values. ‘I wanted to discuss how we set up the story with the entire team and that was wonderful process because it also created a sense of ownership by everyone, and we could show each other how much we know about the collection from various perspectives which are not taken for granted. For example, the lived-in experience of someone who has been working as a gallery attendant for the past 20 years is so valuable – they have information that none of us on the curatorial side could ever dream of possessing in the same way.’

Such wide consultation did indeed bring with it some surprises. ‘Creating the story included lots of ideas that needed to be tested and at the end of the day we really had to kill lots of darlings,’ says Pettersson. ‘For example, originally we had the idea of building an entire wall celebrating the history of Finnish female painters and sculptors, but then our guides said that’s not a good idea. One of the arguments was that if we separate the Finnish female painters from the rest of the story it can be regarded as some sort of arrogant gesture. We then decided not to go in that direction and instead we integrated the women artists into the entire exhibition in order to reflect how things were in society at the time.’

Featured image: Portraits of Finnish Artists. ‘Stories of Finnish Art’ collections exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Read more — Download ‘Retelling the Stories of Finnish Art’ by Gill Crabbe as a PDF

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Call for Research Interns

Finnish National Gallery
Call for Research Interns

The Finnish National Gallery wishes to raise new interest in research topics based on its resources and collections. It also wishes to be an active and innovative partner in collaborating with the academic scene in reinforcing humanistic values and the importance of understanding the world and human culture by creating new, meaningful and relevant knowledge.

For this purpose the Finnish National Gallery is launching a research internship programme for art or cultural history students (preferably master’s-level) internationally to work with us as research interns.

The programme has two aims. Finnish National Gallery wishes to enhance the study of its collections including art works, archives, and objects. At the same time we wish to support students who choose to write their master’s level theses on subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data.

In 2017 Finnish National Gallery is prepared to receive three research interns.

The internship period is three months with the intern under contract to the Finnish National Gallery. The salary is equivalent to the salary of university trainees.

The intern chooses in advance the material of the Finnish National Gallery collections that he/she wishes to study, and agrees on studying it during the internship period. It is desirable that the material will form part of the intern’s thesis. The intern is required, during the period of the internship, to write a text in English, based on the material and the research done at the National Gallery. The text may be published in one of the sections of the FNG Research web magazine. The intern is also expected to write a blog as reporting on the internship for the National Gallery intranet.

Each intern will have an in-house professional tutor at the Finnish National Gallery. The tutor and the intern will meet on average weekly.

The Finnish National Gallery is not responsible for the academic supervision of the intern’s master’s thesis. The role of the National Gallery is to support the intern’s skills in collections research practices.

Are you interested? If so, please send your application by e-mail to or by post to FNG Research, Chief curator Hanna-Leena Paloposki, Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki, Finland.

Applications can be written in English, Finnish or Swedish.

The deadline for applications is April 13, 2017 and the appointments will be announced by May 12, 2017.

The interns are appointed by the FNG Research editorial board.

For more information of the applying process and programme, please see:

How to apply for the research internship programme at the Finnish National Gallery for master’s-level art and cultural history students >>