Articles

Hugo Simberg, Old Man and Child, 1913, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen
Hugo Simberg, Old Man and Child, 1913, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Enhancing the FNG’s Collections

 

The Finnish National Gallery art collections consist of about 40,000 art works from the 14th century to the present day. They are owned by the State, along with its large archive collections. Responsibility for the augmentation and management of the art collections is divided between the three museums of the FNG – the Ateneum Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. The Directors of these museums, Susanna Pettersson, Leevi Haapala and Kirsi Eskelinen, write here about the collections and their history, as well as about acquisitions, donations, and collections policies

19th Century and Modern Art: Collecting for the Ateneum Art Museum

Susanna Pettersson

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Collections in Kiasma Live Along with Renewal of Art Itself

Leevi Haapala

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The Collections and Acquisitions Policy of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum

Kirsi Eskelinen

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Important papers on Modigliani discovered

 

In preparing the Modigliani exhibition, an original speech by Modigliani’s friend and fellow artist, Léopold Survage on Modigliani was found in a file at the Ateneum Art Museum. Survage delivered the speech in Paris in 1947 and sent it to Finland some time after Modigliani’s portrait of him was purchased for the museum’s collection in 1955. The document has not been utilised in Modigliani studies so far. Here FNG Research publishes for the first time a facsimile of the original document and an English translation of the text

My Speech on Modigliani in Paris in 1947

Léopold Survage (1879–1968)

 

The original document: Archive Collections / Finnish National Gallery

Transl. Valerie Vainonen

 

It is thanks to the friendship and affection I feel for Modigliani that I have undertaken to outline some of the characteristics of this unique painter in so far as I have understood them during the periods of his life in which I myself have played a part.

The legend that has grown up around Modigliani has, like all legends, already attributed to him things which are not always true or which are interlaced with facts that have been misinterpreted. Others were true, like those that gave rise to such epithets as ‘Bohemian’ and ‘Montparno’, as opposed to that class of Parisians considered to be ‘the honest bourgeoisie’ with their mundane and dreary way of life, imposed by their work, their character and their concern for upholding a good reputation in their neighbourhood.

The young man was poor. The only baggage he brought with him when he arrived from Italy was the spiritual heritage of his Israeli family with the purity and idealism only that race is capable of developing. He had inherited his nobility of soul from his mother. He showed me her photograph with poignant love and admiration. A striking face, intelligent and fine, with an aristocratic look that ran in the family.

His most remarkable quality, one that never left him even in the most difficult and frustrating situations in his life, was his nobility of soul. His entire appearance, his gestures, his words were those of a long line of aristocrats without pride and full of simplicity and amiability.

The abrupt leap, his departure from Livorno and his abandonment of the family that had protected him from the harshness of life, was the first major shock he had encountered.

Would this young man adjust to the remorseless demands of Paris? He brought with him his gifts, his impetuousness. How would the city welcome him?

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Prof. Juliet Simpson at the Ateneum Art Museum, photographed with Väinö Blomstedt’s painting Francesca, 1897, on display in the ’Stories of Finnish Art’ exhibition of works from the Museum’s collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Prof. Juliet Simpson at the Ateneum Art Museum, photographed with Väinö Blomstedt’s painting Francesca, 1897, on display in the ’Stories of Finnish Art’ exhibition of works from the Museum’s collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

 

International Networking – the Name of the Game

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

 

The Ateneum Art Museum’s art historians have been forging unique links with academics at Coventry University through shared research interests. Gill Crabbe asked Professor Juliet Simpson about her collaboration with arts professionals internationally, when she was in Helsinki to give a lecture on Gothic Modernisms

The words renewal and reinvention have long been associated with the city of Coventry. Its great twin cathedrals – Gothic and modern – bear witness to linked legacies of past and present that have made Coventry central to a new international spirit of post-1945 British culture. In recent years Coventry University’s role in this has been pivotal as an engine of new thinking and creativity; it is therefore no surprise that the University emblem is the rising phoenix, archetypal symbol of rebirth. Juliet Simpson’s new appointment in 2015 to the Professorship in Art History and Chair of Visual Arts, a long-standing University strength, marks part of a new academic influx, destined to open the next chapter of the University’s development. As Chair of Visual Arts, Simpson begins a journey, challenging and dynamic, to put visual arts at Coventry firmly on the international map. Since her appointment, her professional dynamism has acted as a magnet, attracting a wide range of professionals to join her in realising her vision as part of a new Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

In a little over 18 months Prof. Simpson has energised growth, beginning the multi-faceted task of transforming Coventry’s former Department of Design and Visual Arts within the School of Art and Design (now forming part of the University’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities), into a multi-themed operation with an expanded interdisciplinary, international research and cultural sector reach. ‘The idea was to re-energise the historical, the philosophical and theoretical side of the area and boost the connections that can be built between art historians, artists and designers with international museums and gallery collaborations,’ she says. This is no mean feat, given the historic demarcation lines that have existed throughout the professions between university-based art historians and museum-based curators; between fine art and applied art. However, Prof. Simpson’s vision not only crosses these disciplinary boundaries, but extends beyond Britain to establish international collaborations as pivotal to creating an interconnected and transnational visual arts research field, linking historians, curators and innovative creative practices through collaboration with academics and professionals internationally.

This is where Finland’s arts professionals, and in particular the research partnership with the Finnish National Gallery, come into the picture.

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Gothic Modernisms Conference

29–30 June, 2017, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

For full details of the conference and the call for papers, see:

Conferences and Other Events

 


 

Boundary Crossings: The Political Postminimalism of Mona Hatoum

Marja Sakari, PhD, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

First published in Christine Van Assche & Clarrie Wallis (eds.), Mona Hatoum. Centre Pompidou, Paris, 24 June–28 September 2015, Tate Modern, London, 4 May─21 August 2016, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 7 October 2016–26 February 2017. London: Tate Publishing, 2016, pp. 150–168. Transl. Silja Kudell

 

Investment in the look is not as privileged in women as in men. More than any other sense, the eye objectifies and it masters … In our culture the predominance of the look over smell, taste, touch and hearing has brought about an impoverishment of bodily relations.

Luce Irigaray[1]

 

Early minimalist art challenged the privileging of the gaze by foregrounding art’s relation to its surrounding space and the viewer’s corporeal experience.[2] Luce Irigaray’s critique of the privileged gaze is similarly subverted on many levels by Mona Hatoum. We can feel and hear her works – well-nigh even taste and smell them – and one of them literally even touches us. They are insistently corporeal, experienced viscerally within our guts. The materials she uses – cold steel, human detritus, dead skin, strands of hair, nail clippings, plastic, glass, soap and the like – play a highly potent role in the intricate signification process in which she embroils the viewer/experiencer.

The first time I saw her work was at the Centre Pompidou in the summer of 1994.[3] Earlier that spring, I had just seen a Robert Morris retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Guggenheim Museum SoHo in New York. Even though these two powerfully spatial artists represent different generations and genders, seeing their work in such close succession tempted me to draw parallels between them, particularly as both draw inspiration from the same traditions, minimalism and performance art. Many of Morris’s works in the exhibition marked an attempt to subvert the Western mind-body dichotomy, as Rosalind Krauss, the curator, stated in her seminal essay for the exhibition catalogue.[4] Yet, despite its powerful spatiality, its message was relayed primarily on an intellectual level, subordinate to the authority of the subject’s gaze. Many of Morris’s works occupied the gallery space as aesthetic artefacts, impermeable to our access.

A preoccupation with the Western mind-body dichotomy similarly pervades the oeuvre of Mona Hatoum.[5] Yet, her exhibition had a very different effect on me than Morris’s. With her work, my experience as a viewer was not just intellectual, but also physical and emotional. I identified with it viscerally, which compelled me to question how I relate to everything, from my own identity to world politics. How did she achieve such a powerful destabilising effect, and why did she move me in such a fundamentally different way than Morris, whose minimalistic art largely elicited feelings of aesthetic and intellectual gratification? Was it the political subtext that slowly unfolded through a complex web of associations, or was it that I am a woman and closer in age to Hatoum than I am to Morris? Many such questions filled my mind back then. Now, 20 years later, this essay offers a chance to revisit some of them – and perhaps to find answers.

[1] Quoted in Marie-Françoise Hans and Gilles Lapouge (eds.), Les femmes, la pornographie et l’érotisme, Paris, 1978, p. 50. Luce Irigaray is a French linguist, cultural theoretician, psychoanalyst and philosopher whose writings address the problem of the relation between man and woman vis-à-vis gender difference.
[2] Gregory Battcock (ed.), Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1995.
[3] See Mona Hatoum, exhibition catalogue, Centre Pompidou, Paris, June–August 1994. One of the featured pieces, Light Sentence, 1992, was later shown at the Ateneum in Helsinki in ARS 95, an exhibition organised in 1995 by the Finnish Museum of Contemporary Art.
[4] Rosalind Krauss, ‘The Mind/Body Problem: Robert Morris in series’, in Robert Morris: The Mind/Body Problem, exhibition catalogue, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York, 1994.
[5] See ‘Michael Archer in Conversation with Mona Hatoum’, in Mona Hatoum, London, 1997, p. 8.

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For more information on Mona Hatoum’s exhibition at Kiasma, visit

http://www.kiasma.fi/en/exhibitions-events/mona-hatoum/

 


 

Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of the Artist Léopold Survage, 1918, oil on canvas, 61,5cm x 46cm, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of the Artist Léopold Survage, 1918, oil on canvas, 61,5cm x 46cm, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Amedeo Modigliani and the Portrait of Léopold Survage

Timo Huusko, PhD.Lic., Chief Curator, Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

 

Published in English exclusively in FNG Research. Transl. Wif Stenger

In 1918 Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) painted a portrait of his fellow artist Léopold Survage (1879–1968), who was a good friend – indeed, one of Modigliani’s biographers describes Survage as one of his true artist friends after 1913, the other being Chaïm Soutine.[1]

Their friendship likely aided the success of the portrait. Modigliani, after all, was primarily interested in the model’s personality, more so than his or her external features. As a result, when he painted strangers he had to spend quite a long time getting to know them. Most often, the actual painting itself proceeded quickly.

The portrait of Survage is apparently the only oil painting by Modigliani in Finnish ownership. It shows traits that are characteristic of Modigliani’s oeuvre. The elegant use of lines from old Italian art is combined with a more painterly approach to colour in the background and clothing. The face, which is more firmly formed, stands out from the stippled background, creating an impression of a reserved but sensitive man.

In this portrait Modigliani, in his typical manner, has stretched the subject’s face and neck, while dropping the shoulder line. The model is basically recognisable when one compares it to photographs of Survage that were taken later. The work still reflects the artist’s interest in taking influences from art that were considered non-European and primitive. However the shaping of the face is not as angular as those painted in Modigliani’s portraits two or three years earlier.

On the other hand the work does not yet show the kind of mannerism sometimes brought into later paintings with the use of stylised curved lines and a smoothing of the background. Of the works in the ‘Amedeo Modigliani’ retrospective exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum (2016–17), the closest to that of Survage is probably the portrait of Gaston Modot (Centre Pompidou, Paris), which was painted in the same year, 1918.

[1] William Fifield, Modigliani. The Biography. New York: Morrow, 1976, 180.

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Koliba Villa (Willa Koliba), designed by Stanisław Witkiewicz in 1892–93, is now the Museum of the Zakopane Style, a branch of the Tatra Museum in Zakopane Photo: Tatra Museum Archive
Koliba Villa (Willa Koliba), designed by Stanisław Witkiewicz in 1892–93, is now the Museum of the Zakopane Style, a branch of the Tatra Museum in Zakopane. Photo: Tatra Museum Archive

Return to Nature

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

 

A key feature of the European revivalist art of the late 19th century were the artists’ communities that grew up in areas of natural beauty across Europe. Gill Crabbe meets two of the organisers of the 2015 European Revivals conference, which took place in Krakow and Zakopane in the Tatra mountains

When one thinks of the European revivalist culture that emerged in the later decades of the 19th century, one thinks of Paris as having been the central hub of the artistic ideas that spread across Europe and that included – especially in northern Europe – an urge to return to local territories and art practices. There were also the philosophical ideas generated by British artist thinkers such as John Ruskin, and the birth of the Arts and Crafts movement, epitomised in the decorative arts of William Morris. However, fewer scholars internationally today have been aware of its manifestations in central Europe, and one significant result of the Finnish National Gallery’s European Revivals Research Project has been a conference that took place in Krakow and Zakopane in Poland, which has now placed the country’s Tatra mountain region firmly on the European revivalist map.

The FNG’s European Revivals Project, which has been active since 2009, aims to bring together scholars, art histories and narratives from different countries and explore their common cultural heritage concerning this key period in Europe’s cultural history. The four international conferences that have so far taken place have provided fertile ground for sharing ideas, networking and exploring common experiences.

The Tatra Museum conference in Krakow in 2015, which included a day visiting the Tatra mountain village of Zakopane, took as its theme the return to nature that can be seen as a feature of European revivalist cultures, reflected in the development of artists’ colonies in rural areas that promoted a simple healthy lifestyle. Their art not only foregrounded en plein air landscape painting but also manifested in fresh creativity in the decorative arts and architecture and indeed across all artistic disciplines. At the conference, curators and scholars from as far afield as Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and of course Poland, explored themes ranging from nature and myth, and colour and national artistic identity, to wilderness and violence, and the significance of the rustic hut.

Edyta Barucka, an independent scholar based in Warsaw, explains how the Krakow conference came about. ‘It goes back to the first of these conferences, held at the Ateneum Art Museum in 2009, which was about the myths and visions of history and included study visits to the Finnish artists’ houses – Gallen-Kallela’s house in Tarvaspää and houses in the Tuusula district near Helsinki,’ she says. ‘It was a marvellous experience just to touch these houses, to see them as they were, to learn their respective histories. And it added an important dimension to our research – sharing direct experiences and insights with colleagues. I remember the lineoleum in one of the rooms and wondering if it was from Scotland. It was the first time I thought it would be good to share what we have in Poland.’

At subsequent conferences, delegates became aware of new threads and areas of interest developing. ‘Then, following the Oslo conference in 2014, I revisited the idea of bringing scholars to Poland, in collaboration with the Tatra Museum,’ says Barucka.

 

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Read more about the European Revivals Research Project — just follow the link below:

https://research.fng.fi/research-projects/

Download the programme from the European Revivals 2015 conference, Tatra Museum, Krakow and Zakopane

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Alfred William Finch, Rainy Weather at Hampton Court, 1907, oil on canvas, 63cm x 79cm, Antell Collections, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Alfred William Finch, Rainy Weather at Hampton Court, 1907, oil on canvas, 63cm x 79cm, Antell Collections, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

‘New relations, unsuspected harmonies’: Modern British Art in Finland, 1906–1964

Inga Fraser, Assistant Curator of Modern British Art, Tate, London

 

The above quotation[1] is taken from a description penned by Roger Fry of a painting by Paul Cézanne, Les Maisons Jaunes, (1879–82), now known as The Viaduct at L’Estaque, which was shown at the exhibition, ‘Manet and the Post-Impressionists’, at the Grafton Galleries in London from 8 November, 1910 to 11 January, 1911. This work was acquired for the collection of the Finnish Art Society at the Art Museum of the Ateneum in Helsinki,[2] following discussion involving the London-based Finnish art historian Tancred Borenius and the Finnish professor of aesthetics and literature Yrjö Hirn. Copies of the letters between Borenius and Hirn held in the archive collections of the Finnish National Gallery show the extent to which Fry influenced this particular acquisition. Borenius refers to Fry’s direct involvement in the selection of acquisitions, recommends Fry to Hirn as one of Europe’s foremost connoisseurs and, finally, mentions the fact that Fry promised to publish a written appraisal of the acquisition in The Burlington Magazine, thus validating the quality and value of the painting in the eyes of the public. With increasing infrastructure and affluence in the first half of the 20th century, travel and international communications became more viable for artists, critics, scholars and collectors alike in Europe. Consequently, the period 1905–65 was witness to the rapid expansion of the art market. National museums in a number of European capitals outside the established art market centres of London, Paris, Vienna, Moscow and St. Petersburg, began to collect contemporary and international art; and the frequency with which temporary exhibitions were staged increased. The legacy of decisions made concerning acquisitions, exhibitions and institutional strategy during this period continue to affect the activity and structure of arts organisations to the present day and, yet, the details of the international networks that emerged and underwrote these decisions remain under-researched.

As theoretical, stylistic and technical developments in modern art spread across Europe, each country developed its own national variants that most often have been the object of study for home-grown art historians within the country of origin. By taking a view of the activity of British artists from without, focusing on the instances when artists and artworks travelled beyond national borders, I will begin to build up a picture of British art and Britishness as a foreign entity. This will, I hope, throw new light on a familiar field, and reveal something of the social, political and economic significance of art in Britain during this transitional period. Indicatively, a recent selective catalogue of the international collection of the Ateneum Art Museum, part of the Finnish National Gallery, lists works by country, covering France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, Belgium, Holland, Hungary, Estonia, Poland, the United States, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Japan, China – but not Britain, though the collection includes over 300 objects made by British or part-British artists.[3] Narrowing this number to those works made during the modern period (for the purposes of this study defined as 1890–1965), I am chiefly concerned with the 73 acquisitions that occurred within this timeframe – bracketed by the first purchases in 1906 and, in 1964, the last acquisition – which, I argue, should be seen less as a result of discreet networks and more as a product of a general programme of international acquisitions and displays.[4] Using as the backbone of my research the acquisitions made by the successive governing committees of what is now constituted as the Ateneum Art Museum, this essay attempts to map chronologically some of the exchanges between Britain and Finland – between artists, collectors, art schools, exhibition venues, commercial galleries, national galleries, scholars, critics and other organisations – to which Fry’s description of ‘new relations, unsuspected harmonies’ may fruitfully be applied.

 

[1] Roger Fry, ‘Acquisition by the National Gallery at Helsingfors’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 18, no. 95, February 1911, p. 293.
[2] Maurice Denis’s Calypso, now known as Ulysses with Calypso (1905), was also acquired by the Ateneum. For details of works shown, see Anna Gruetzner Robins, ‘“Manet and the Post-Impressionists”: a checklist of exhibits’, The Burlington Magazine, December 2010, no. CLII, pp. 782–793.
[3] Ateneum Art Museum: A Selection from the International Collection (Helsinki: National Gallery of Finland, 2000). A search conducted on 17 September, 2015 of the Finnish National Gallery database listed 422 works as by British or part-British artists in the collection of the Ateneum, out of a total of 22,841 works – roughly 1.8%.
[4] In total, the database lists 4,999 works dated 1890–1965 that were acquired during the same period. Of this number, 3,803 are recorded as being by Finnish or part-Finnish artists, leaving 1,196 items in the collection made by artists from abroad or unclassified. The database lists 406 works by Swedish or part-Swedish artists, 355 works by French or part-French artists and 57 works by Russian or part-Russian artists made and acquired between 1890 and 1965.

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Jacob Axel Gillberg, Self-Portrait, 1815, watercolour and gouache on ivory, 6,2cm x 6,2cm, Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Mäkinen
Jacob Axel Gillberg, Self-Portrait, 1815, watercolour and gouache on ivory, 6,2cm x 6,2cm, Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Mäkinen

Small is Beautiful

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

 

The Sinebrychoff Art Museum has one of the finest collections of portrait miniatures in the Nordic region. Curator Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi gives Gill Crabbe the backdrop to the conservation work that has taken place over 15 years of collaboration with the specialist conservator Bernd Pappe

 

Paul Sinebrychoff’s collection of miniatures, which date from the 17th to 19th centuries, originally enjoyed pride of place in the salon of his home in Bulevardi, Helsinki, which is now the Finnish National Gallery’s Sinebrychoff Art Museum. As museum curator Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi explains, ‘They were his treasures and he started by buying two big collections of about 100 pieces each, having done his own research. Altogether, though, he collected around 400 images which are contained in more than 320 items (some miniatures contain multiple images).’ Sinebrychoff’s treasure trove has been augmented by a further 46 miniatures collected by Mikko and Mary Mannio, as well as seven miniatures acquired through other donations.

Today a selection of these miniatures is on display in a specially designed room with lighting suitable for conservation purposes and in a cabinet that enables the viewer to see the exquisite workmanship in closer detail. Much of this display has been conserved by Bernd Pappe, a leading expert in miniature conservation, who first visited the museum as an advisor 15 years ago, and then as conservator. On his most recent visit in April 2016, he has been bringing many works up to the standard required for them to go on show in the permanent exhibition. This has been part of a two-year project during which Pappe has concentrated on replacing the damaged glasses in the frames.

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Bernd Pappe at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s specially designed room where the collection of miniatures is displayed. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen
Bernd Pappe at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s specially designed room where the collection of miniatures is displayed. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

It’s All in the Detail – Interview with Dr. Bernd Pappe

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

 

The leading international conservator Bernd Pappe has been involved in a major conservation project at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Gill Crabbe meets him to find out how he has brought exquisite portrait miniatures in the collection up to display quality

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To watch a video of Bernd Pappe talking about replacing weeping glasses, click here: https://vimeo.com/174356601

 


Peter Adolf Hall, Treasurer Johan Gottlob Brusell (1756–1829), watercolour and gouache on ivory, 8.3cm x 6.6cm, marked: Hall 1783/5. Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Peter Adolf Hall, Treasurer Johan Gottlob Brusell (1756–1829), watercolour and gouache on ivory, 8.3cm x 6.6cm, marked: Hall 1783/5. Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

The Enigmatic Mr Brusell

Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, Curator, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

 

First published in Art’s Memory – Layers of Conservation. Edited by Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, Maija Santala, Ari Tanhuanpää, Anne-Mari Forss. Sinebrychoffin taidemuseon julkaisuja (Sinebrychoff Art Museum Publications). Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum, 2005

 

Treasurer Johan Gottlob Brusell, by the Swedish painter Peter Adolf Hall, is one of the most valued portrait miniatures in the Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection. The work is marked with an indistinct signature and the date 1783/5 on the right-hand side.

Paul Sinebrychoff bought the miniature in 1904 from his distant relatives, the Falkman family of Sweden[1]. It had been in the possession of the family for several generations. In his correspondence with Bukowski, Sinebrychoff mentioned that he was fascinated by the miniature and sent a photograph of it for evaluation. Dr. Palm, from the Bukowski auction house, thanked him cordially for the photograph and praised the beauty of the piece, noting that there was a similar painting in a Swedish collection.[2] It has since been discovered that several versions of the miniature were made[3], which begs the question, why so many versions?

When Paul Sinebrychoff bought the miniature, it was presumed to be a portrait of Carl Michael Bellman, Sweden’s national poet, which would explain the numerous versions. The questions of whether the subject is of similar appearance and age as Bellman and whether or not Hall and Bellman ever met, remained unanswered for decades. The truth was not revealed until the early 1900s as the result of research by the Danish art historian Torben Holck Colding[4]. The subject proved to be Johan Gottlob Brusell, as indicated by an inscription discovered on the reverse of a miniature in a collection in Copenhagen. Written in ink, the text read: ‘Kamereraren vid Museum Brusells portrait målad af Hall i Paris’ (‘Portrait of Museum Treasurer Brusell painted by Hall in Paris’). This attribution is confirmed by the fact that Johan Brusell had visited Paris around 1783. There has never been any doubt regarding the artist. The miniature is an example of Peter Adolf Hall’s work at its most typical and is one of his best works.

 

[1] Carlén 1861. Provenance attributed to the clothing merchant Carl Ahrens 1861 is uncertain.
[2] This was in the collection of the wholesaler Setterwall. The work was kept in the family, and is known to have been in Gothenburg in 1950.
[3] At least seven different works are known.
[4] Colding 1950, 145–50.

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Saarikoski, Hanna, See Paris and Die, 2012, HD video 16:9, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery
Hanna Saarikoski, See Paris and Die, 2012, a still from an HD video 16:9, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery

To Touch and Be Touched: Affective, Immersive and Critical Contemporary Art?

Saara Hacklin, PhD, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

This article was recently published in Stedelijk Studies, Issue No. 4/2016, and is based on a paper Hacklin presented at the conference Between the Discursive and the Immersive: Research in the 21st Century Art Museum, 3–4 December, 2015, co-organised by the Louisiana Museum in Humblebaeck, the University of Aarhus, and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

Hacklin presents as a case study the collection exhibition shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in 2016.

To read Saara Hacklin’s article, visit

http://www.stedelijkstudies.com/journal/to-touch-and-be-touched/

 


Markus Heikkerö, Summer Day in Kangasala, 1969, oil painting, 84,5cm x 100cm, Markus Heikkerö Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen
Markus Heikkerö, Summer Day in Kangasala, 1969, oil painting, 84,5cm x 100cm, Markus Heikkerö Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Eye, Phallus and Fantasy: Recurring Figures in the Paintings of Markus Heikkerö

Leevi Haapala, PhD, Museum Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

First published in Markus Heikkerö. Elämä on turhaa baby… / Life’s a bitch, baby… Edited by Saara Hacklin, this article transl. by Silja Kudel. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 149/2015. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, 2015

 

The unbelievable is happening as soon as we open our mouths.[1]

Nicholas Royle, The Uncanny, 2003

Listening to Markus Heikkerö, the above statement could not be truer. Memories, anecdotes and incidents from his life become interwoven in an endless saga – much in the same way as copulating cartoon creatures, extra-terrestrials and disfigured human bodies are entwined in the jumbled character gallery of his paintings. The bewildering, sexually fanciful imagery of his 1960s and ’70s paintings finds its match in a colourful array of titles: The Fateful Vermin of Ursus, Necrophiliac Childbirth, The Pegasus Conspiracy and Ali Receives a Commandment by the Red Sea (Self-Portrait). Sexual encounters of sundry descriptions morph into acts of theatrical performativity in his panoramic fantasies.

My personal interest in Heikkerö’s work was piqued by the psychedelically trippy, sexually risqué imagery of his early canvases and their complex allusions both to classical paintings and to Disney iconography: think Mickey Mouse high-fiving protagonists out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. With the passing decades, the boldly explicit content of his canvases has moved in a more metaphorical direction, the exuberant exaggeration of his early work being replaced by larger-scale canvases of exponentially amplified expressivity.

‘Abandoned Orphans’ (1967–68) is an early series of paintings showing the influence of Max Ernst and other surrealists whom Heikkerö has cited as influential to his work. His fascination with surrealism was also inspired by the painter Alpo Jaakola, who was a friend of the family. The weird protagonists and introverted mysticism of Jaakola’s Äänittäjät (The Recorders, 1962) and Uni Erämaassa (Dream in the Wilderness, 1966) offer reference points for reading the sketchily rendered, floundering figures and warped reality of the ‘Abandoned Orphans’ series. Heikkerö was intrigued by Ernst’s 1920s experimental combinations of visual elements in paintings such as Murdering Airplane (1920), Celebes (1921) and Ubu Imperator (1923), which all depict people, animals and machines merging in unsettling states of metamorphosis. Similarly, Ernst created collages by cutting up and re-organising clippings from advertisements and brochures, creating strange anthropomorphic creatures paired with classical sculpted torsos as were common in the work of the surrealists and Italian Metaphysical painters, such as De Chirico.

 


[1] Royle, Nicholas, 2003. The Uncanny. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 291.

 

 

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Artist Markus Heikkerö has donated a large collection of his artworks and his archive to the Finnish National Gallery. To see the artworks, visit

http://kokoelmat.fng.fi/app?lang=en&si=http%3A%2F%2Fkansallisgalleria.fi%2FE78.Collection_Markus_Heikkeron_kokoelma&museummode=all

For more information on the archival material, you can access the web publication Markus Heikkerö – Ideasta teokseksi / From Idea to Work of Art at

http://www.lahteilla.fi/fi/publication/markus-heikkero

 


 

Nikolai Astrup, June, Night in the Garden, undated, colour woodcut with handcolouring, 31.2cm x 41.3cm, from the collections of the Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo. Photo: The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo / Børre Høstland
Nikolai Astrup, June, Night in the Garden, undated, colour woodcut with handcolouring, 31.2cm x 41.3cm, from the collections of the Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo. Photo: The Nasjonalmuseet, The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo / Børre Høstland

Inspired by the Land of the Rising Sun

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

 

The ‘Japanomania’ exhibition in Helsinki is the culmination of an innovative inquiry into Nordic Japonisme that began in 2011. Gill Crabbe meets the show’s Chief Curator, Professor Gabriel Weisberg, a leading authority on Japonisme, and Riitta Ojanperä, Director of Collections Management at the Finnish National Gallery, and reports on the highlights of the exhibition’s accompanying conference

Gabriel Weisberg, Professor of Art History at the University of Minnesota, is a world expert on Japonisme, a term that was first used in 1872 by the French art critic and collector Philippe Burty to describe the influence of Japanese art on Western art and design that began around 1870 and flowered through to the end of the First World War. Prof. Weisberg was recently in Helsinki, as Chief Curator of ‘Japanomania in the Nordic Countries 1875–1918’, which opened at the Ateneum Art Museum, and which travels to the National Museum, Oslo, this summer, and to the Statens Art Museum, Copenhagen, in 2017. The project was started at the Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki in 2011 as the museum wished to establish a deepened research collaboration with Prof. Weisberg. The curatorial team consisted in the beginning of Prof. Weisberg and the Finnish National Gallery’s Chief Curator Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff and was later increased with art historians from other Nordic countries.

I met Prof. Weisberg, along with Riitta Ojanperä, Editor in Chief of the FNG Research web magazine, to discuss key themes in the exhibition and in art-historical research relating to Japonisme in Finland and other Nordic countries. The meeting took place ahead of a day-long international conference on the topic, with distinguished art historians and experts on Japonisme taking part, including Director of the Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Akiko Mabuchi.
Prof. Weisberg’s interest in Japonisme began in the 1960s when, as a student, he wrote his doctoral thesis on Philippe Burty, who had put his finger on the start of a phenomenon that was to sweep across Europe and America. For Weisberg too his research was the start of an enduring passion that has lasted almost 50 years – one that he shares with his wife Yvonne – and perhaps following the footsteps of Burty, Weisberg himself has now coined the term ‘Japanomania’ in giving the title to this groundbreaking exhibition.

‘Japanomania wasn’t a term that was used in the 19th century,’ Prof. Weisberg explains. ‘It’s a word we have come up with to deal with what was previously called Japonisme, and I now call Japanomania because it was a phenomenon that touched every aspect of life.’ While Japonisme can be seen as an influence on Western art and design, Japanomania implies a much bigger impact, one that caused a frenzy of interest from artists, collectors and fashionable society. ‘It overtook everything,’ says Yvonne Weisberg. ‘Japanomania was huge in America, for example. It was chic. People had their houses redecorated with Japanese objects. The son of the American poet Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow even went to Japan and came back with his body tattooed.’

As Prof. Weisberg points out in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition: ‘The impact of Japanese art throughout the Nordic countries would not have been possible had Japonisme not become more than a mere curiosity.’

 

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See the video of a presentation in the recent Ateneum Art Museum conference on Japonisme in Nordic Art by Dr. Akiko Mabuchi:

https://vimeo.com/album/3863187

See the Call for Papers for an international symposium Interaction, Influence, and Entanglement. 100 years of Finnish–Japanese Relations and Beyond organised at the University of Oulu, Finland in September, 2016:

Download the CFP of the ‘Interaction Influence and Entanglement’ Symposium >>

 


 

Jari Silomäki
Jari Silomäki, I Walk Hundreds – and Thousands – of Steps on Tiananmen Square (from the series ‘“We are the Revolution”, After Joseph Beuys’), 2013, pigment print, 77cm x 65cm, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen

Unlike Minds: the Sleeping Artist and Other Modes of Resistance

Marja Sakari, PhD, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

First published in Demonstrating Minds – Disagreements in Contemporary Art. Edited by Patrik Nyberg & Jari-Pekka Vanhala. Museum of Contemporary Art publication 150. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma 2015

 

Stéphane Hessel, the German-born French diplomat and co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, voiced a rally cry to France at the age of 93 with his pamphlet Time for Outrage! (Indignez-Vous!, 2010).[1] The piece was originally written as a speech commemorating France’s resistance to Hitler’s occupation during the Second World War. For Hessel – a former resistance fighter and survivor of two Nazi concentration camps – the main struggle of the 21st century is not against political tyrants, but against ‘the international dictatorship of the financial markets’. His indignation was spurred by the growing gap between the world’s rich and poor, the crumbling of the welfare system, restrictions on the freedom of the Press, the unjustified political influence of the financial sector, the unfair treatment of illegal immigrants and the oppression of the Palestinians in Israel. Also voicing grave concern for the environmental crisis, he advocated peaceful, non-violent insurrection. His pamphlet urges us to be indignant, not indifferent – to take a stand and show outrage at times when we can no longer feel proud of the society we live in.[2] Speaking out and showing anger makes a political difference. Hessel’s key message is that injustice should not be tolerated in any form.

But social injustice and inequality show no sign of abating. The political climate is more volatile than ever: The Arab Spring failed to bring democracy to North Africa, the crisis in Ukraine is breeding fear among Russia’s neighbouring states, and Isis is gaining power and ground. Equality is far from a given: rape remains a widespread problem around the world, female genital mutilation persists, and sex slavery and trafficking are rife, even in the West.

How do contemporary artists deal with such injustices? What strategies can they employ to voice their indignation and mount a resistance?

[1] Hessel’s (1917–2013) pamphlet was translated into many languages immediately after it was first published in French. It sold millions of copies and is cited as inspiration for various global protest movements including Occupy Wall Street. https://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stéphane_Hessel.

[2] Stéphane Hessel, Time for Outrage! Charles Glass Books, London, 2011.

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Artist Tanja Boukal at Melilla CETI camp with residents, 2015. Photo: © Tanja Boukal
Artist Tanja Boukal at Melilla CETI camp with residents, 2015. Photo: © Tanja Boukal

 

Over the Borders

Kati Kivinen, PhD, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Kati Kivinen interviews the Austrian artist Tanja Boukal, whose work focusing on Europe’s refugee crisis was featured in the recent ‘Demonstrating Minds’ exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

 

When doing research on art as social commentary for the exhibition ‘Demonstrating Minds: Disagreements in Contemporary Art’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma (9 Oct, 2015 to 20 March, 2016), our curatorial team [1] wanted to discover how contemporary artists deal with different social and political injustices. We wanted to know what kind of strategies the artists employ to voice their indignation and mount resistance. In the era of exhibitions drawn on the signature imagery and repertoire of marches and demonstrations, from protest placards and riot barricades to Occupy camps and Pussy Riot, we wanted to find a different path to follow when tackling these issues. Instead of aestheticised politics or documentation of any particular political conflicts or events, we wanted to take a critical look at the universal power mechanisms and the conflicting stances that artists take against the prevailing consensus. Thus the selected works in the ‘Demonstrating Minds’ do not simply address a specific conflict or recent world event; rather they make a statement of a more universal yet also particular nature, often framed through metaphor or a deeply personal perspective. Instead of just reporting and acknowledging current events, the art in the exhibition offers an interpretative angle, leaving the ultimate conclusions up to the viewer.

The number one topic of discussion of the summer and autumn of 2015 has certainly been the refugee crisis, which has extended in a completely new way all the way up North to Finland as well. Both the media and coffee-table discussions have been taken over by the news of the influx of refugees and of the border fences that European countries have started to erect in order to direct the masses of refugees on new routes. Many artists have felt a strong need to tackle the subject in their individual works, especially with the aim of shedding light on the matters that easily remain hidden from mainstream media attention. This is what the Austrian artist Tanja Boukal (b. 1976) has also done in The Melilla Project (2014–15) which was on show at the ‘Demonstrating Minds’ exhibition. However, at the same time discussion on the effects of the current situation on artistic production have arisen; questions on the ethics and responsibilities of the artists working with such delicate issues have been debated during this autumn. [2]
Tanja Boukal’s art revolves around people, their social circumstances and their various ways of coping in the face of adversity and unexpected challenges.

The Melilla Project is about a Spanish enclave on the north coast of Africa that is separated from Morocco by a 3m-high, 11km-long border fence. For many sub-Saharan Africans this 13.4 sq km enclave with its population of over 80,000, is a gateway to the north – a heavily guarded European fortress on the African continent. Boukal first travelled to Melilla on a research trip in spring 2014 to meet the refugees, both those waiting on the Moroccan side for ‘the perfect moment’ to jump the fence, as well as those who had somehow successfully crossed over, but were now stuck in limbo in the Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes (CETI) Camp in Melilla. Boukal wanted to meet them to discuss their dreams for the future and how it feels to wait, day in, day out, for a new life to begin, without ever knowing what will happen or when it will happen. Through her work she wishes to give visibility to those who are invisible and who have been deprived of the authorisation to speak and act on their own behalf.

I contacted the artist as I wanted to hear more about her ideas and thoughts on what it is like to work with such controversial subject matter and what kind of ethical duties and responsibilities are involved for artists in such a project.


[1] Kati Kivinen, Patrik Nyberg, Marja Sakari & Jari-Pekka Vanhala

[2] http://conversations.e-flux.com/t/some-points-to-consider-if-youre-an-artist-who-wants-to-make-work-about-refugees/2716/3

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Marja Kanervo, Pallet I-III, 2013, installation, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.
Marja Kanervo, Pallet I-III, 2013, installation, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.

Destabilised Gaze Positions and Reminders of Mortality

Marja Sakari, PhD, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

First published in Marja Kanervo. Esiinkatoavaa = (Dis)appearing. Edited by Patrik Nyberg, Jari-Pekka Vanhala & Maija Kasvinen. Museum of Contemporary Art publication 138. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma 2013

In his seminal work The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard discusses the poetic image, which he posits as something radically different from metaphor, a petrified image to which we have become habituated. A poetic image is something unprecedented, and thereby creating something unprecedented.[1] Marja Kanervo modifies spaces in much the same way as a poet conjures up images and spaces with words. By removing structural components so that displaced elements form written words (MORE/LESS, 2013), or by adding artefacts that redefine their surroundings, she transforms the physical site which the viewer occupies into a dream-like ‘imaginary space’ that is charged with an emotional intensity that is difficult to express in words. The pieces featured in her retrospective at Kiasma in 2013 – a textual panorama, a deconstructed Wendy house, hair-reinforced concrete panels, concrete beds with human hair stuffing, and shirts adorned with buttons of human teeth neatly folded in display cases – acquire their meaning through their emphatic materiality. We viewers are forced to ask ourselves: what are my personal reactions to these seemingly familiar yet strangely warped and disjointed dream-like states?

[1] Tarja Roinila, 2003. ’Gaston Bachelard, tilan ja poetiikan filosofi’, in Bachelard, Gaston, La Poétique de l’espace, 1957. Helsinki: Nemo, 12–14.

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Wood Panel Workshop at Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Wood Panel Workshop at Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Arne Rannaoja and Jean-Albert Glatigny repair the upper section of Madonna and Child Enthroned. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Touch Wood – Rescuing Rare Panel Paintings

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

 

An international expert on the conservation of panel paintings has led a groundbreaking workshop at Sinebrychoff Art Museum, where participants rolled up their sleeves to restore some of Finland’s national treasures

 

In the vaulted White Cellar in the basement of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki, a dozen or so conservators – many from museums across Finland, and including Tannar Ruuben, the paintings conservation lecturer at the city’s Metropolia University of Applied Sciences – are gathered around a table, peering at the back of a 17th-century wood panel painting. The table is specially made for the highly sensitive work of restoring and conserving rare works of art painted on wood. The clamping table, as it is known, has been constructed by Jean-Albert Glatigny, Conservator at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels, who is considered to be the world expert on restoring wood panel paintings. He is here to lead a 10-day practical workshop sharing his expertise in the structural stabilisation of these works with a new generation of conservators, passing on his knowledge in this highly skilled field. The clamping table he has brought with him from Brussels is used to glue splits in the panels and to repair joints with a high degree of precision. Tannar Ruuben was so impressed by it that he decided to buy it for his conservation department.

The workshop has come about as a result of the Getty Panel Painting Initiative, an ongoing project that aims to increase specialised training in the structural conservation of panel paintings and to advance the treatment of these works in collections around the world. The project was brought to the attention of Kirsi Eskelinen, the Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s Director, when in 2010 she met Prof. Jorgen Wadum, keeper of conservation and director of the Centre for Art Technological Studies and Conservation (CATS) at Denmark’s National Gallery, who was involved in the Getty initiative. At that time Eskelinen was head of collections at the Serlachius Museum in Mänttä and had been seeking guidance on the repair of the 16th-century panel attributed to the studio of the Flemish painter Quentin Matsys, Madonna with Cherries which, she says, ‘was actually in two pieces’. Wadum visited Mänttä to advise on how best to proceed with its restoration and, says Eskelinen, ‘he asked us if we need this kind of specialist knowledge throughout Finland’.

Five years on, and in her new position at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Eskelinen’s response remains unequivocal. ‘I want to generate more co-operation in the field of research and care of the Old Masters collections across Finland. As a museum specialising in this area the Finnish National Gallery is keen to develop and share its expertise.’

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See the video of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum workshop by clicking on the link below

https://youtu.be/54Mw1BGTJNU

 


 

Giovanni Boccati, The Adoration of the Magi, (1440–1445), oil on panel, 80cm x 53,2cm, Aspelin-Haapkylä Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Giovanni Boccati, The Adoration of the Magi, (1440–1445), oil on panel, 80cm x 53,2cm, Aspelin-Haapkylä Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

The Adoration of the Magi – a Masterpiece

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Director, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

 

First published in Art’s Memory – Layers of Conservation. Edited by Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, Maija Santala, Ari Tanhuanpää, Anne-Mari Forss. Sinebrychoffin taidemuseon julkaisuja (Sinebrychoff Art Museum Publications). Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum, 2005

Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä had bought this painting of the Adoration of the Magi in Venice in 1898. [1] According to Osvald Sirén it would have been the jewel of Aspelin’s collection had it not been in such poor condition. Sirén, however, had deeper insight when he attributed this ‘beautiful ruin’ to Giovanni Boccati in 1921. [2] The abundant ornamentality and fluent composition of the Late Gothic were, according to Sirén, characteristic of the work owned by Aspelin, which he associated in terms of style with Gentile da Fabriano and particularly with a painting of the same title by him in Florence. The figures of the Virgin and children, the nature of the background scenery and the decorative details of the painting in turn pointed to Boccati. Sirén compared this painting to an altarpiece predella painted by Boccati in 1447 (Pala del Pergolato, Perugia), with its theme of the Passion and especially the scene of Christ bearing His cross. In the latter work, the marine landscape and the town wall with its towers resembled the Aspelin painting. [3] Sirén dates the work in Aspelin’s collection to before the Perugia predella of 1447. [4]

[1] Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä observed the connections of the painting with the works of Gentile da Fabriano in his notes, where he wrote “Tuscan-Umbrian in the manner of Gentile da Fabriano”. Literature Archives of the Finnish Literature Society, folder A469, Helsinki. I am indebted to Hanne Selkokari for this information.

[2] Sirén, Osvald, 1921. Tidiga Italienska Målningar i Finska Samlingar. Stenmans konstrevy no 4–5, 1921, 44.

[3] Sirén 1921, 43–44.

[4] Sirén 1921, 45. Sirén leaves any closer dating open by noting: ”… and have cause to assume that he was already active several years previously.”

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Gustaf Lundberg, Countess Poaton (date unknown). Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Gustaf Lundberg, Countess Poaton (date unknown). Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Pastel Painting – a Rococo Beauty in the Eyes of a Painter

Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, Curator, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

 

First published in Art’s Memory – Layers of Conservation. Edited by Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, Maija Santala, Ari Tanhuanpää, Anne-Mari Forss. Sinebrychoffin taidemuseon julkaisuja (Sinebrychoff Art Museum Publications). Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum, 2005

 

The pastel painting in the Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Art Collection entitled Countess Poaton shows a young woman with her face depicted in a slanting position, slightly inclined towards the right of the viewer. The front of her dress is decorated with a beautiful border of flowers and lace, with a lock of her dark-brown hair hanging freely over it. The hair forms small rosettes as if by chance. On top of the young woman’s white-powdered coiffure is a bouquet of small blue flowers. A blue scarf of the same hue directs the viewer’s gaze. This type of treatment of the subject is typical of portraits by Gustaf Lundberg, who repeated certain elements from one year to another, with only the features of the face altered in a slightly flattering fashion to resemble the subject.

Pastel paintings are at their best when viewed in a slightly subdued light and at a greater distance than usual. In some places the execution of this portrait appears clumsy at close range; the red of the cheeks is clearly striped and the skin around the nose seems exaggeratedly dark. Yet the bodice of the dress is executed with great finesse, showing the almost dream-like delicateness of pastel painting at its best. When the work is put in its presumed contemporary lighting, the viewer is taken by the beauty of the whole painting and the skill of the artist. It is the work of an artist who in an obviously explicit manner left out everything that is superfluous, while achieving his planned goal of a charming pastel painting.

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Anna Rapinoja, Autumn Party Shoes, 2010, made from northern bilberry leaves, from the series ‘Wardrobe of Nature’, 2005–11, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.
Anna Rapinoja, Autumn Party Shoes, 2010, made from northern bilberry leaves, from the series ‘Wardrobe of Nature’, 2005–11, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.

 

Physical Phenomena and Natural Materials – The Challenges in Collection Management

Eija Aarnio, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

First published in Kiasma Hits. Kiasma Collections. A Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Publication 139/2013. Edited by Arja Miller & Joni Kling. Helsinki 2013: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, 60–71. Transl. Tomi Snellman

Art research has not always placed a particularly high value on materiality. Matter was seen primarily as a substratum through which meanings were read. However, the separation of matter and idea is no longer considered a realistic approach in the understanding of the processes of art. Art historian Katve-Kaisa Kontturi even claims that no image or representation can be interpreted or would even exist without the material-bodily processes of art making and reception.[1]

Anni Rapinoja’s Wardrobe of Nature (2005–11) consists of hats and handbags made of cotton grass and common reed, complete with sumptuous fur coats and matching shoes made of willow or northern bilberry leaves. Peering into the handbag, you find it is filled with elk droppings. Rapinoja lives on the island of Hailuoto in Oulu, where she collects these sensitive materials for her work. The inhabitants of the island know her and her working methods. Hunters are in the habit of bringing her the ears and tails of rabbits they have caught, which the artist keeps in cake boxes while she waits for inspiration.

Timo Heino’s Dialogue (2005) is made of synthetic and organic elements – car tyres, metal chains and human hair. With hair cascading towards the floor from their centres, the rubber tyres are like a row of chandeliers hanging at different heights. Processing has transformed real hair into an almost unnatural substance. The threadbare tyres are recycled material. The artist wants to blur the aesthetic of materials and the narrow categorisations and rigid oppositions typical of Western culture.

[1] In her study, Katve-Kaisa Kontturi emphasises a neo-materialist approach in which a bodily experience of art can also be part of critical research. Katve-Kaisa Kontturi, Following the flows of process: a new materialist account of contemporary art, University of Turku, Turku, 2012, 22–24.

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Heli Rekula, Skein, 2000, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen.
Heli Rekula, Skein, 2000, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen.

From Monitor to Gallery Space – Spatialisation of the Moving Image in Finnish Video Art in the 1990s

Kati Kivinen, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

One of the main trends in both the video art and photography of the 1990s is related to spatial works of art rapidly becoming more common in both domestic and international contemporary art. In video art, the projected and multi-screen video installation quickly replaced earlier sculptural video installation art, which still depended on monitors as the image source. In the video art of the 1990s, the partner in dialogue was more often cinema rather than television, and the emphasis shifted from the political video art of the 1970s, which had used TV aesthetics, to more experiential video art that returned to cinema aesthetics (Iles 2003; Kotz 2005/2008). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, photography turned to installation’s new ways of presenting and interpreting in an effort to break away from the documentary tradition, and to pursue the fine art dimension of photography in particular (Rinne 1997, 11; Elovirta 1999, 199–201).

The new spatial trends in the field of art soon also inspired various attempts to compartmentalize and define the new spatial forms of expression in both moving image and photography. At the turn of the millennium, terms such as gallery film, used in Anglo-American discourse, and cinéma d’exposition (cinema of exhibition), based on French research, established their presence in the discourse on spatial forms of the moving image, while in photography, the discussion was situated somewhere between the points of fine art photography and fine arts. In Finland, these fields had only just started to move towards one another at the beginning of the 1990s. The outbreak of photography into space mainly took place through conceptual art, when the photograph – no longer merely a pure aesthetic object, but now a part of a process – broke out of its frame, expanding the traditional boundaries of the medium and seeking to find new ways and forms for the expression traditionally imposed on it (Hietaharju 1992). Later, photography also showed signs of moving towards cinematic representation in the works of significant photographers of the 1990s such as Jeff Wall and Andreas Gursky. One of that decade’s central phenomena in photography became the monumental ‘cinematic tableaux’, which, in art-historian Liz Kotz’s opinion, brought together the high culture aspirations of painting and the pop culture appeal of Hollywood (Kotz 2005, 105).

This development started around the same time in both art forms; however, in photography, it withered quickly. In Finnish art large-scale projected video installations – often in multi-screen format – had great exposure at the turn of the millennium in both domestic and international exhibitions, and were often accompanied by Finnish photography. The significant difference was, however, that coming into the new millennium, photography abandoned installations and ‘returned to the walls’. Director of the Finnish Museum of Photography Elina Heikka sees signs of ‘business economic rationality’ in this development, which, in the internationalization of the art world, shuns the more experimental forms of art and favours easily movable pieces that can be placed in different kinds of spaces (Heikka 2004).

 

This article will appear in a publication later in 2015 presenting the Nordic Outbreak project focusing on Nordic media art in New York. Transl. Taru Karonen

 

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Helene Schjerfbeck, Self-Portrait, Black Background, 1915. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.
Helene Schjerfbeck, Self-Portrait, Black Background, 1915. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.

Helene Schjerfbeck: The Brightest Pearl of the Ateneum’s Collection

Susanna Pettersson, PhD, Museum Director, Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

 

Published in Helene Schjerfbeck, Reflections. Edited by Naoki Sato. Tokyo: Kyuryodo Publishing, 2015, 202–205.

Helene Schjerfbeck is one of the most important artists in the Ateneum Art Museum’s collection. Today, her works arouse unreserved admiration the world over. Schjerfbeck is associated with vision, integrity and the notion of blazing one’s own trail. She saw what others were doing but did what she wanted to do – regardless of public response.

However, Schjerfbeck’s position in the European, Nordic or even Finnish art field was not always so self-evident. When she was born in 1862, Finland was a Grand Duchy of Russia. The populace spoke Swedish, Finnish and Russian, while the intelligentsia who had travelled widely in Central Europe also spoke French fluently. Literature, theatre and music blossomed. Yet the situation was different when it came to art. There was not a single public art collection in the country, the number of private art collectors could be counted on the fingers of one hand and the few exhibitions that had been held were relatively modest.

This article focuses on the history of the acquisitions of Schjerfbeck’s works, primarily in regard to the collection of the Finnish Art Society, which formed the basis of the Ateneum Art Museum/Finnish National Gallery collection. One could assume that the acquisitions made for the collection reveal something essential about the expectations surrounding the artist, the artistic concepts of the day and how they changed. Schjerfbeck was recognised early on as a highly gifted artist – so we may well consider how this is reflected in the history of the collection.

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Erkki Kurenniemi in 1960’s. Erkki Kurenniemi Archive. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery.
Erkki Kurenniemi in the 1960s. Erkki Kurenniemi Archive. Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery.

Erkki Kurenniemi – A Man from the Future

Erkki Kurenniemi (born 1941 in Hämeenlinna, Finland) is an instrument builder and a pioneer of Finnish electronic music. He has been at the forefront of technological innovations since the 1960s, anticipating and discussing the great changes that computers have introduced into our lives, society and culture. In 2006, Erkki Kurenniemi’s archives were donated to the Finnish National Gallery (for more information, see http://www.lahteilla.fi/kurenniemi/en).

Erkki Kurenniemi – A Man from the Future is a collection of research articles about Kurenniemi published by the Finnish National Gallery. These articles explore Kurenniemi’s life, career and activities from diverse perspectives. The themes of the publication range from media archaeology, musicology and instrument construction to critical discussions of Kurenniemi’s visions and in-depth media analysis.

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