Nina Roos, Lost in Yellow, 2000, oil on polycarbonate sheet, metal stand, 90cm x 175cm x 241cm (each sheet), installed in the lobby at Kiasma Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen

Celebrating Three Decades of Collecting Contemporary Art

 Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

When a national collection marks a milestone in its history, it offers a chance to get a glimpse of the changes that have contributed to its evolution. Gill Crabbe asks three curators from the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma / Finnish National Gallery about the process of preparing a new book that opens the doors to the past 30 years of the museum’s acquisitions

In our digital age when e-books and online webzines are the order of the day, the production of a book is a special project. It is an In Real Life event, a hand-held object that has a physical life and span, something not only to be read, but for the reader or readers perhaps to adorn with personalised marginalia, a concretised narrative that can be physically place-marked with folded page corners, easily navigated (no endless screen scrolling) and delved into anywhere anytime without plugging-in. The book, far from being an anachronism, is in fact gaining in value as the exponential expansion of electronic media progresses. And books, especially when commissioned to commemorate or celebrate, can be a multiple monument, honouring achievements over time. This is the case with a beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated book, The Many Forms of Contemporary Art, which celebrates 30 years of collecting contemporary art. It is the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma’s monument to its own art collection, in book form.

I think a physical book is still important and it’s a topic we discussed a lot ourselves,’ says Kati Kivinen, Chief Curator of Collections at Kiasma, one of three of the museum’s curators who were driving the project. ‘Personally, I prefer to roam through a book when accessing a theme or topic, rather than looking at hundreds of images of artworks online, even more so after two years of watching everything on screen during the pandemic. Also the book is closer to the works themselves, being concrete – a book lying between an image on screen and the actual artworks.’

In addition to its celebratory aspect, the decision to publish the book was also practical – Kiasma has been undergoing renovations since early 2021 and with its exhibition spaces out of action, and many projects off the agenda, the museum’s curators found themselves time-richer, and in Kivinen’s words ‘with an opportunity of a book project on 30 years of collecting. We have never done a comprehensive overview of the collection like this before and since our publications have always been linked to the exhibitions that we present, this offered a rare chance to concentrate on the collection without this kind of agenda.’

Featured image: Nina Roos, Lost in Yellow, 2000, oil on polycarbonate sheet, metal stand, 90cm x 175cm x 241cm (each sheet), installed in the lobby at Kiasma
Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen

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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

Milk, Monosodium Glutamate, Chewing Gum and Dust – Lasting and Evanescent Material in Kiasma’s Collections

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.[1] . 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.

[1] 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

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Johanna Lecklin, Story Café, 2004–10, videotape, video projection, neon sign and live art, photographed at the ‘It’s a Set-up’ collection exhibition at Kiasma, 2010. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Dialogues, Complaints, Coffee, and Dough. When the Viewer Participates

Kaija Kaitavuori, PhD, art historian and researcher on contemporary art

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

In the late 1990s, art exhibitions began to include works that required active participation from the viewer. It was no longer enough just to look at the works: they invited or even demanded that the visitor do something. This feature has changed the traditional exhibition experience. It has also posed new challenges for museum collection and exhibition practices.

The viewer engages in dialogue

In 1996, the Museum of Contemporary Art held an exhibition that deliberately opened up space for the visitor’s contribution. Curated by the Chief Curator Maaretta Jaukkuri, the exhibition was called ‘Dialogues’.[1] The artists presented the opening lines and then handed over to the viewers, who added their own responses to the discussion. Together, these tentative, suggestive and experimental contributions formed the actual work of art.

One of the works in the exhibition was a sculpture by Tiina Ketara: a human-sized figure, resembling the artist, lying on the floor. As the viewer approached, they heard a gentle plea: ‘Help me. Hey, you there, come closer!’ The work asked the viewer to help her sit up and eventually stand. When the viewer complied, the doll chatted some more, said that things were not going well, and finally sang a song. Confronted with the work, the viewer had to make decisions about his or her own attitude and actions. Should I accept the invitation, step up to the work, touch it? In making the decision to participate, the viewer entered the territory of the work, became part of it and at the same time was exposed to the gaze of others in the space. The visitor was no longer a spectator among others, but part of the work: a participant. The very title of the work, You and I (1996), addresses the viewer. Here we are: I, the work, lying here, and you, next to me, watching, listening, perhaps touching. Or maybe ‘I’ is the spectator, and ‘you’ the work, in front of me, talking to me, making a request. Or is ‘you’ the other spectator, with whom we negotiate, perhaps without words, the modus operandi. Will you go, shall I join you, do we dare to approach?

[1] The foreword of the exhibition catalogue quotes David Bohm, who defines dialogue in a broad way as ‘a stream of meaning flowing among and through us, and between us’. Maaretta Jaukkuri (ed.). Dialogues. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 36/1996. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art, 1996, 6–7.

Featured image: Johanna Lecklin, Story Café, 2004–10, videotape, video projection, neon sign and live art, photographed at the ‘It’s a Set-up’ collection exhibition at Kiasma, 2010.
Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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Screenshot from Eino Ruutsalo’s film Kinetic Pictures, 1962 Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum

‘I Wish to Be a Field of Constant Transformation’ – Eino Ruutsalo’s Experimental Approaches in the 1960s

Marko Home, PhD, independent researcher

At the beginning of February 1968, Eino Ruutsalo (1921–2001) was having an exhibition ’Valo ja liike’ (Light and Movement), at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki. Sam Vanni (1908–1992), who had been a major innovator in Finnish painting in the 1950s, was also due to take part in this exhibition. However, Vanni was outraged to see that his paintings were being hung alongside Ruutsalo’s electrically-operated kinetic works. As a result, Vanni decided to withdraw his work from the exhibition, and this happened at such a late stage that the exhibition catalogue had already been printed, and his contribution could no longer be removed from it.[1] This episode is one example of many in which Ruutsalo challenged the conventions of the Finnish art scene in the 1960s.

In September 2021, a week before the centenary of Ruutsalo’s birth, I defended my dissertation in art history at the University of Helsinki. The aim of my research was to examine the role of this visual artist and filmmaker Ruutsalo in the new forms of art emerging in Finland during the 1960s.[2] The main source material for my research was Ruutsalo’s previously unexplored private archive, which includes the manuscript of his unpublished memoir, correspondence, notes, newspaper clippings, photographs and exhibition catalogues.[3] Other sources I consulted consisted of material in several archival institutions, interviews, exhibition critiques and newspaper articles, and of course Ruutsalo’s works.

Based on my research, I also published a non-fiction book about Eino Ruutsalo for the general public[4], as well as co-curated with Katja Ikäläinen an exhibition on Eino Ruutsalo’s experimental approaches in the 1960s for the Ateneum Art Museum’s Focus Gallery[5]. I also curated a retrospective of Eino Ruutsalo’s films for the National Audiovisual Institute’s cinema Kino Regina[6]. The aforementioned projects have reminded the audience in Finland that Eino Ruutsalo is one of the key names in the history of the Finnish avant-garde. Since my doctoral dissertation is written in Finnish, the aim of this article is to give foreign readers a brief summary of Ruutsalo’s diverse artistic activities.

[1] Eino Ruutsalo. ‘Maalarin rytmiä etsimässä’ (‘In Search of the Painter’s Rhythm’), unpublished memoir, 2000, 77. The Eino Ruutsalo Archive (ERA). Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery (AC, FNG); Valo ja liike / Ljus och rörelse (Light and Movement), Amos Andersonin taidemuseo (Amos Anderson Art Museum), 7–14 February 1968, exhibition catalogue.

[2] Marko Home. ‘Pysähtymisessä vaanii kuolema’ – Eino Ruutsalon kokeellinen 1960-luku (‘Death lurks in stagnation’ – Eino Ruutsalo’s Experimental 1960s). Helsinki: University of Helsinki, 2021,  https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/333635 (accessed 5 January 2022).

[4] Marko Home. Eino Ruutsalo – Kineettisten kuvien maalari (‘Eino Ruutsalo – Painter of Kinetic Pictures’). Helsinki: Parvs, 2021, https://parvs.fi/en/books/eino-ruutsalo/?lang_switched=1 (accessed 5 January 2022).

[5] ‘Focus Gallery: Eino Ruutsalo’s Experimental 1960s’, Ateneum Art Museum, 14 September 2021 – 27 March 2022, https://ateneum.fi/en/exhibitions/fokus-gallery-eino-ruutsalos-experimental-1960s/ (accessed 5 January 2022).

[6] Kino Regina: ‘Eino Ruutsalo 100 vuotta’, 2021–2022, https://kinoregina.fi/teemat/eino-ruutsalo-100-vuotta/ (accessed 5 January 2022).

Featured image: Screenshot from Eino Ruutsalo’s film Kinetic Pictures, 1962
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum

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nabbteeri, Rubbish video (detail), 2014, projection screens, video installation, 00:05:28s, loop Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Recycled Utopia – Where Art and Everyday Life Coalesce

Ida Pakarinen, MA, University of Helsinki

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery

Plastic. Used electronics, cables, tons of cereal packages, textiles, cigarette butts, radioactive landfills and repositories, glass bottles and rusted cans. Plastic, plastic, plastic. Plastic in all shapes.

We have all seen the photos of the shorelines filled with the trash the oceans have spat back. Some of us are living in the middle of that dumpster-like reality every day. Yet those photos do not move us so much anymore, paradoxically exactly because of the amount of the trash we live with. We no longer see plastic as an alien subject, because it has completely invaded our lives.

I was 15 years old when I first heard about the infamous Great Pacific rubbish patch, the drastically huge island-like area that is said to be nowadays three times the size of France. Imagining this vortex of faded coloured shampoo bottles, toys, straws and fishing nets floating on the sea made me feel weak and hopeless. It was an awakening moment, and the dystopian shadowy feeling has become even bigger over the years. In an era of eco crisis, thoughts of conspicuous consumption, mass extinctions and hazardous changes in the weather and nature keep restlessly sprawling across my mind. As a beginner art researcher, I’ve been contemplating how much the Finnish contemporary art world has raised its head to these matters. It is obvious that my interest in these matters comes from a concern and an anxiety towards the ecosystem. My thoughts have been especially about trash and recycling. That is why I applied for this research intern job in the Finnish National Gallery.

In this article, I want to see how much and which recycled materials have been used in Finnish contemporary art. For me recycled material means something that is not bought as new. By trash I mean all the thrown away material that cannot be seen to have any use anymore. This material includes broken utensils, old electronics and other devices, expendable objects such as cans, plastic wrap, cardboard, wrapping paper, and all the disused, outdated objects. My focus is then on human-made products, thus excluding natural materials such as wood, hair, fur and offal from my research, yet all these aforesaid materials are refined by humans. This framing excludes many influential pieces from Finnish contemporary artists such as Kaisu Koivisto, who has used a lot of animal-based material in her art. Yet she has also used plenty of human-made recycled materials in her artistic practice, such as objects she has found from rubbish skips.[1]

[1] An interview with Kaisu Koivisto, 25 November 2021. Interviewer Ida Pakarinen. Interview made in Koivisto’s studio apartment in Helsinki. Length 01:01:26. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki (AC, FNG).

Featured image: nabbteeri, Rubbish video (detail), 2014, projection screens, video installation, 00:05:28, loop
Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

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The Gothic Modern group admires the interior of Espoo Cathedral Photo: Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff

Out in the Field – a Gothic Modern Tour

The Gothic Modern research and exhibition project partners meeting in Finland, Thursday 11 November 2021

Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, PhD, Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum

The international research and exhibition project Gothic Modern started in 2018 and it will conclude with an exhibition in the Autumn of 2024. ‘Gothic Modern: from Northern Renaissance to Dark, Emotive, Uncanny Modern Art’ explores the pivotal importance of Gothic art for the artistic modernisms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This ambitious new approach to modern art focuses on the untold story of Nordic and Northern European medieval reinventions, from the 1890s to the fall of the Weimar Republic. The project aims to illuminate the Gothic as a core fascination for early 20th-century art, transcending nationalism, straddling war and its aftermath. It is also a compelling exploration of the Gothic for the 21st century, examining individual, gender and transnational community, entwined with the dark, the emotive and uncanny. The project partners are the Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, the National Museum, Oslo and Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, with Professor Juliet Simpson as the guest curator.

The Ateneum Art Museum was delighted to host the first face-to-face partners workshop in Helsinki in November of last year, as the project team has been working remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Featured image: The Gothic Modern group admires the interior of Espoo Cathedral
Photo: Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff

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Two Research Interns Appointed at the Finnish National Gallery for 2022

Two research interns have been selected for the FNG research internship programme for 2022. The decisions were made based on the applications and the following points were underlined:

  • The point of view of the archives and collections: priority was given to students whose applications were based on a concrete and defined part of the FNG collections and especially to previously unstudied and/or topical materials
  • Preparation of the working plan and the research questions related to the chosen collections material

 

The FNG research intern programme has two aims. The Finnish National Gallery wishes to enhance the study of its collections, including artworks, archives, and objects. At the same time it wishes to support students who choose to study subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data.

The research interns at the Finnish National Gallery for 2022 are:

Hilla Männikkö, University of Helsinki

The miniatures in the Collection of the Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum from the viewpoint of materialism; the miniatures in the collection, conservation material at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, photographs and other archival material in the Archive Collections of the Finnish National Gallery, collections of the Finnish National Gallery Library

Laura Nissinen, University of Helsinki

Connections between scientific imagery and Finnish art at the turn of the 19th century, especially anatomical images; sketches and sketchbooks in the Collection of the Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, photographs and other archival material in the Archive Collections of the Finnish National Gallery, collections of the Finnish National Gallery Library

Both interns have already started their three-month internship and have their own in-house tutors to support them with studying their chosen material.

For more information about the FNG’s research internship programme: fngr@nationalgallery.fi

David Beck (1621−56), studio, Christina, Queen of Sweden, oil on canvas, 68cm x 56cm Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Kirsi Halkola

Art and Travel: The First Steps in the Formation of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s Collection in 1883–99

Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, MA, Curator, Archives and Library Unit, Finnish National Gallery

This is a revised version of the article published in Salla Heino (ed.), Koti Bulevardilla – Keräilijät Paul ja Fanny Sinebrychoff / Ett hem på Bulevarden – Konstsamlarna Paul och Fanny Sinebrychoff / A Bulevardi Home – Art Collectors Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff. Sinebrychoff Art Museum Publications. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum, 2021. Transl. Mike Garner

Paul Sinebrychoff the Younger (1859–1917) was only 29 years old in 1886 when, with the support of his mother, he took charge of the family-owned brewery. When he had married the actress Fanny Grahn (1862‒1921) three years earlier, he did not yet have responsibility for the family business and the young couple were able to travel abroad and explore art treasures. Thus began a lifelong passion for culture and the Sinebrychoffs started collecting art in the late 1890s and, as a result of nearly thirty years of collecting, in 1921 Fanny Sinebrychoff donated the collection of approximately 900 works to the Finnish State at the joint request of the couple.

During those decades Paul Sinebrychoff used to write letters in the evenings concerning art acquisitions to various specialists, mainly in Sweden, but later in other parts of Europe. The Archives of the Finnish Art Society at the Finnish National Gallery’s Archive Collections contain approximately 1,300 letters and responses to and from Sinebrychoff between 1891 and 1914. My essay explores the way that Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s art collection was formed as a consequence of their journeys to Sweden. The information about those journeys and art acquisitions comes from this research into Paul Sinebrychoff’s correspondence.

An appreciation of the context surrounding these now-digitised letters is of paramount importance in gaining an overview. For example, in analysing Henryk Bukowski’s 19th-century auction catalogues, I was aided by a knowledge of, for instance, Swedish art collectors, their collections, and the sales of individual works of art. My research also covers the Sinebrychoffs’ personal relationships with art historians, antiques dealers, and especially with art collectors. For example, the Sinebrychoffs made their first purchases of artworks directly from artists, collectors and antiques dealers.

Featured image: David Beck (1621−56), studio, Christina, Queen of Sweden, oil on canvas, 68cm x 56cm. Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Kirsi Halkola
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.

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Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Gustavian Room, 2003. Photographer: Arno de la Chapelle. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

A Collector’s Dream

FNG Research

A new book, A Bulevardi Home – Art Collectors Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff, published by the Finnish National Gallery, celebrates the centenary of the bequest of the Sinebrychoffs’ collection of artworks, furniture and other artefacts to the Finnish Government in 1921. Meanwhile, at their home – now the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki – the exhibition ‘Collectors on Tour’ presents important collectors who have donated their collections to the FNG. FNG Research discusses the growth of house museums and artefact studies, with Kari-Paavo Kokki, a museum director emeritus and expert in historical styles and artefacts, who has also contributed an essay to the book.

The Sinebrychoffs’ bequest is housed in their house museum on Bulevardi (now part of the Finnish National Gallery), where the rooms on the first floor at the front of the building are shown as Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff had arranged them after moving there in 1904. As part of the centenary celebrations, the house museum is reopening following further renovations to the building. In the temporary exhibitions gallery below the house museum, the exhibition ‘Collectors on Tour’ spotlights significant collections belonging to the Finnish National Gallery and their influence. These collections include those of the Swedish baron Otto Wilhelm Klinckowström (1778–1850), the Italian Renaissance scholar Eliel Aspelin (1847–1917), the forestry magnate Jalo Sihtola (1882–1969), who collected both historic and contemporary works, and the Paris-based millionaire Herman Antell (1847–93) who had a taste for collecting Old Masters.

Featured image: Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Gustavian Room, 2003. Photographer: Arno de la Chapelle. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

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Slavs and Tatars, Prayway, 2012, installation. Courtesy the artists and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin Photo: Bernard Kahrmann

Living Encounters: Creating a Landmark ­Contemporary Art Show

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

Putting together a survey show that takes the pulse of the global art world is a complex task. Ahead of the ARS22 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Gill Crabbe discusses the research and curatorial processes involved with Museum Director Leevi Haapala and Chief Curator João Laia

There’s an old saying that we can become what we dwell on, and this springs to mind following meeting Leevi Haapala, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Chief Curator João Laia. They have been working on the latest in a series of exhibitions, which are held every four to five years in Helsinki to test the water of the contemporary arts scene both nationally and internationally. Each edition of this long-established show is eagerly awaited, with its selection of around 40–50 artists ranging from emerging Finnish artists to global icons, and expectations are high. Hearing Haapala and Laia speak about their vision for ARS22 and the research processes involved, it seems clear that the two of them have been in many ways embodying or exemplifying the vision they have evolved for this landmark exhibition. They are walking the talk.

For the theme around which ARS22 is conceived is mutual empathy, neatly encapsulated in the show’s title ‘Living Encounters’. Looking at the world, as artists do, it is easy to see the processes of social fragmentation (accelerated by Covid-19) and increasing polarisation within the discourses and issues of today, be that politics, ecology, technology, belief systems, gender or race issues – ‘concerns,’ says Haapala ‘that contribute to determining our actions in collective and private spheres’. The vision for ARS22 centres on presenting artworks that individually, collectively or in dialogue with one another, offer the possibility to question or obviate such divisions. With this approach ARS22 sets out to create a ‘renewed way of thinking which acknowledges the complexities of the world as fruitful’ rather than divisive, and provides a ‘forum for sharing experiences and examining issues that touch us all’.

Featured image: Slavs and Tatars, Prayway, 2012, installation. Courtesy the artists and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin
Photo: Bernard Kahrmann

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