The Ateneum Research Library. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Researching the Finnish National Gallery’s Collections

Riitta Ojanperä, PhD, Director of Collections Management, Finnish National Gallery


11 March 2022


The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, one of the Finnish National Gallery’s three museums, closed its doors for more than a year in order to carry out renovation work to the building. During this period the museum staff were busy focusing on curating an extensive exhibition of international contemporary art ‘ARS22 – Living encounters’, which opens in April.

This exceptional period offered Kiasma a rare opportunity to concentrate on its collections. One result is the publication of a richly illustrated book, The Many Forms of Contemporary Art, which celebrates 30 years of collecting contemporary art. The current issue of FNG Research magazine publishes online two articles from the book, as well as an interview with the curators responsible for the book project. From a research point of view there was a specific chance for the curators to follow their own research interests and to avoid using the standard ways of looking at the collection, instead roaming freely through it.

Since 2017 the Finnish National Gallery has run a research intern programme to foster collaboration between the museum professionals and academic studies in art history. Interns have been recruited to work for three months on a selected part of our collections, honing their skills in researching chosen topics by studying material collection objects, such as specific artists’ archives. In this way we wish to support future museum professionals’ practical enthusiasm for actual physical objects in the collections in their many formats. This programme has proved to be successful both for graduate-level students and the museum’s professionals practising research.

Our research intern for the autumn period in 2021, Ida Pakarinen, chose to look at the collections from the viewpoint of current climate change. Through the artists’ works she chose to examine, her article, ‘Recycled Utopia – Where Art and Everyday Life Coalesce’, touches upon important questions concerning a museum’s collections management in the form of contextualising collections objects with metadata. Focusing on recycled materials and their status in artworks and artists’ working processes, she came to discuss certain key words or concepts, such as ‘trash’, ‘waste’ or ‘junk’, as part of the contextualisation of collection objects. Her approach makes visible how, for example, vocabularies used in cataloguing museum collections are entangled with transforming meanings and values.

An important international research project that FNG Research is currently following is entitled ‘Gothic Modern: from Medieval and Northern Renaissance to Dark, Emotive, Uncanny Modern Art’. The project schedule stretches from 2018 to 2025 and explores the pivotal importance of Gothic art for the artistic modernisms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this issue, we follow the international partners group meeting and encounter modern Gothic throwbacks in Finnish cultural history.

Featured image: The Ateneum Research Library
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen
Public domain. This image of a work of art is released under a CC0 licence, and can be freely used because the copyright (70 full calendar years after the death of the artist) has expired.

Read more — Download FNG Research No. 1/2022 as a PDF

Download the articles as a PDF >>