Satu Oksanen, MA, Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Also published in Saara Hacklin, –Kati Kivinen and Satu Oksanen (eds.), The Many Forms of Contemporary Art. The Kiasma Collection Book. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 175/2022. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, 2022. Transl. Maija Timonen
Materials used in contemporary art are diverse, and often central to the meanings of the works. On the one hand the material of an artwork can be something tangible, on the other, a piece can take an immaterial form. The idea of a search for the new, questioning and reacting to the surrounding world, is inscribed into contemporary art. Challenging existing methods and trying out new materials in art demands of the museum a continual change in modes of operation. Museums must find new means of collecting, preserving and exhibiting art. New materials also propose new ways of experiencing art for the spectator.
The art collection of a museum is also a collection of materials. An enormous mass of matter has been accumulated in store rooms, an assembly of ageing bodies of artworks. Transience and the fragility of materials is nothing new in art, but the use of materials that are vulnerable to the ravages of time has increased in contemporary art. At different points in time attitudes towards materiality and its meanings have shifted. In Finland a significant change in the use of artistic materials occurred in the 1960s, when the use of new and alternative materials became common. The traditional materials of sculptures, such as wood, stone and bronze had to make way for polyurethane, perspex and fibreglass. Oil-based paints were traded in for acrylic. . Digitality has been visible in art particularly since the end of the last millennium. In the 2000s ideas around new materialism shifted attention to the agency of materials.
 Kirsti Harva. ‘Teosten toinen elämä. Vaikuttavuus konservaattorin näkökulmasta’, in Päivi Rajakari (ed.), Mitä meillä oli ennen Kiasmaa? Kokoelmatoiminnan vaikuttavuus. Helsinki: Valtion taidemuseo / KEHYS, 2008, 272.
Featured image: Jouni S. Laiti, Pain of the Earth, 2018–19, birch burl, iron nail, antler, 5.7cm x 11cm x 12cm, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen
Read more — Download ‘Milk, Monosodium Glutamate, Chewing Gum and Dust Lasting and Evanescent Material in Kiasma’s Collections’, by Satu Oksanen, as a PDF