Gill Crabbe, FNG Research
As the Sinebrychoff Art Museum brings together works by the 18th-century Venetian masters from across Northern Europe, Gill Crabbe meets Chief Curator Ira Westergård to discuss the research findings behind this groundbreaking exhibition
Any art-historical research project that sets out to delve into the provenance of artworks, carries with it some risk. The risk that, after committing the valuable resources of time, professional expertise and funding, one might draw a blank. Unexpected and unwanted surprises, such as an unfavourable reattribution, misleading information, or a tainted provenance, are just some of the hazards. Add to that the pressure of linking a research project to an international exhibition that plans to present the research findings, and you have quite a task on your hands. Top that with the unforeseen consequences of a global pandemic at the eleventh hour of mounting an exhibition, and one is navigating truly unprecedented circumstances.
Sitting in the office of Dr Ira Westergård, Chief Curator of the Finnish National Gallery’s Sinebrychoff Art Museum, two days after the opening of its exhibition ‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’, I am struck by the indefatigable energy – the renowned Finnish sisu – the show’s mastermind exudes, as she apologises for the piles of books and papers spread across all available surfaces – ‘they are all part of other projects I have had to put on hold and are now waiting to be dealt with’. One can see how this dynamism has driven an ambitious project that has brought together paintings and works on paper by these Venetian masters, the Tiepolos father and son, that found their way north and now reside in the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Finland. Not only that but, perhaps even more importantly, in gathering together key players in the international Tiepolo research community to contribute to the show’s accompanying catalogue, she has spearheaded a publication that is bound to impact the Tiepolo research community for some years to come. ‘This catalogue is as important as the exhibition,’ she says, gripping it with both hands, as she holds it up in front of her. As the many narratives and their twists and turns unfold during our interview, one begins to understand why.
Featured image: Giandomenico Tiepolo’s oil sketches from the Trojan Horse series (1773–75): The Building of the Trojan Horse and The Procession of the Trojan Horse , both on loan from the National Gallery, London, and the Sinebrychoff Art Museums’ The Greeks Sacking Troy. Installation view of the ‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’ exhibition at the Sinebrychoff art Museum, Helsinki, 2020
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
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