Isak Wacklin: Miss Heckford, 1757, Oil on canvas (detail), Finnish National Gallery, A II 1439. Photo: Finnish National Gallery, Conservation Department.

The Lifespan of Artworks Between the Earth and the World

Ari Tanhuanpää, PhD, Senior Conservator, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

This article is based on the lecture given at the ‘Object Biographies, Second International Artefacta Conference’, organised by Artefacta, The Finnish Network for Artefact Studies, in collaboration with the Finnish Antiquarian Society and Nordic Association of Conservators in Finland, held at the House of Science and Letters, Helsinki 2–3 March 2018

When browsing through a book by a Belgian art historian Roger H. Marijnissen, entitled Dégradation, conservation et restauration de l´œuvre d´art (1967) a phrase caught my attention and began to haunt me:

Il est parfois difficile, voire impossible de faire une nette distinction entre l´usure et la patine. [1]

This translates in English as: ‘It is sometimes difficult, or even impossible, to make a sharp distinction between effacement and patina.’ This led me to ponder such questions as time, which, as Aristotle stated (Physics, 217b) ‘is that which is not’, or is only ‘barely and scarcely’[2], and the working of the artwork which transcends its materiality. The fundamental question of my paper is, however: can we really draw a strict demarcation line between life and death?[3]

[1] R.-H. Marijnissen. Dégradation, conservation et restauration de l´œuvre d´art (Bruxelles: Éditions Arcade, 1967), 168–69.

[2] Jacques Derrida. ‘Ousia and Grammē: Note on a Note from Being and Time.’ In Margins of Philosophy. Translated, with Additional Notes, by Alan Bass (Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1982), 39.

[3] Derrida argued that ontical disciplines – such as biology and anthropology – ‘naively put into operation more or less clear conceptual presuppositions (Vorbegriffe) about life and death’. Jacques Derrida. Aporias. Transl. Thomas Dutoit (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1993), 29.

Featured image: How much usure can an artwork endure? Isak Wacklin, Miss Heckford, 1757 (detail), oil on canvas , Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery, Conservation Department

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Berndt Abraham Godenhjelm, Aiax, a Study of a Plaster Cast, undated, charcoal on paper, 44cm x 41.5cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

How an Artisan became an Artist – an Overview of the Early Stages of Finnish Art Education

Irene Riihimäki, MA student, University of Helsinki

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery, during which Irene Riihimäki studied material in the Archive Collections of the Finnish National Gallery

It is childish to long for native art; Finland can never be a land for artists.’
– It was not long ago when this sentiment was commonly heard; in this way many speak even today, but their number is becoming smaller and smaller.
[1]

This article focuses on early art education in Finland from the 1840s to the end of the 1860s. During this time the backbone of art education was created in The Grand Duchy of Finland. Before the 1840s there was no institution in the country focusing primarily on educating artists. The distinction between the artist profession and craftsmanship emerged during this time and was connected to the development of the schooling system for artists. The artist’s new identity was accompanied by the founding of art academies.

An important step in Finland creating its own generation of artists was the foundation of the Finnish Art Society in 1846. Another important contributor was the Imperial Alexander University in Helsinki in the mid-19th century. The most essential source material for this article has been the Finnish Art Society’s minutes with appendices from the years 1846–69. These minutes include, for example, information about acquisitions of works of art, exhibitions and letters sent to the board by artists.[2] Circumstances in Finland were challenging during the mid-19th century. During this 20-year period Finland endured the Crimean War, from 1853 to 1856, a cholera epidemic and the Famine of 1866–68. Despite all of these difficulties there were hopes of improving the education system for artists.

[1] Papperslyktan 15 October 1860. My translation.

[2] The oldest part of this material (years 1846–1901) is available in digitised form. It can be read from the website: http://www.lahteilla.fi/styp/.

Featured image: Berndt Abraham Godenhjelm, Aiax, a Study of a Plaster Cast, undated, charcoal on paper, 44cm x 41.5cm
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

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Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe performing in Helsinki in 1991 Photo Sakari Viika

A Star Called Monroe

Olesya Turkina PhD and Victor Mazin PhD

Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe was an idiosyncratic Russian artist whose rise to stardom came in the wake of perestroika, as he pushed the boundaries of identity, gender and celebrity status through his reinventions of the world’s iconic stars. Researchers Dr. Olesya Turkina and Dr. Victor Mazin[1] survey his short career, as Kiasma mounts his first solo show in Finland

A star

The star of Vladislav Yurievich Mamyshev-Monroe ascended at the beginning of perestroika. In fact, perestroika started not in politics but in art. In 1982, Timur Novikov founded the Novye khudozhniki (New Artists) group; in 1984, Sergey Kuryokhin organised the Popular Mechanics orchestra; and only then, in 1985, the newly elected relatively young General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev began talking about the need for perestroika. Vladislav Mamyshev saw in Gorbachev the swapping of the male archetype for female, militarist policy for pacifist. The artist marked his official portrait of the General Secretary with a bindi – third eye and a sign of truth in Hinduism, which is also a mark of married women. This collage is the first artwork by Mamyshev to have been widely recognised. A portrait of Gorbachev by Vladislav Mamyshev, of course, was bound for success in the mass media, and set the artist up for stardom. It was reprinted by a number of leading Western magazines, in particular, by the German magazine Stern (Star).

[1] About Olesya Turkina and Victor Mazin, see http://www.mg-lj.si/en/events/2036/a-short-history-of-necrorealism/ .

Featured image: Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe performing in Helsinki in 1991. Photo Sakari Viika

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’Russian Stardust’, 9 February – 29 July, 2018, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

An Ecstacy of Beauty. Finnish Artists Travelling Beyond Europe 1882-1926. Online exhibition in Europeana. Screen capture of the front page.

Tapping in to Europe’s Digital Cultural Heritage

Interview by Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

We transform the world with culture’ is the motto of the Europeana Foundation, Europe’s largest digital platform for cultural heritage, where FNG’s Archive and Library Manager/Chief Curator Hanna-Leena Paloposki spent two months on a unique residency working at its headquarters in The Hague

As art experiences for the general public expand increasingly beyond the walls of art museums, online collections and online art exhibitions are offering a new kind of accessibility to artworks in the 21st century. Now, not only can you access a vast array of curated cultural material such as image galleries, podcasts and exhibition tasters through art museums’ own web pages, but international cultural organisations are also offering portals and platforms for important cultural material that are proving invaluable, not only for the art-loving public, but also for researchers and art professionals. One such organisation is the Europeana Foundation, and if you visit the Europeana Collections homepage, you will find an online exhibition, ‘An Ecstasy of Beauty’, which explores the travels made by Finnish artists from 1882 to 1926 and how their journeys influenced their art. Thus visitors from across the world can discover, perhaps for the first time, Finland’s key artists of the period, such as Akseli Gallen-Kallela, who travelled in Africa, and Hugo Simberg, who journeyed to the Caucasus to visit his engineer brother.

The EU’s commitment to creating a digital European library to make Europe’s cultural heritage available to all, led to the creation of the Europeana Foundation and website in 2008, which in 2010 provided access to around 10 million digital objects – today that figure has risen to 51 million – through the contributions of more than 3,000 cultural institutions mostly from across Europe. Besides being a portal, it is a platform and publishes curated online exhibitions and thematic collections, as well as raising awareness of its content through active engagement with social media. The Finnish National Gallery joined Europeana many years ago, sharing a large part of its art collections online.

As part of its continuing commitment to international co-operation and networking, in 2016 the Finnish National Gallery launched a work exchange residency scheme for its employees to fund them for periods of up to two months to work in organisations abroad. So when Hanna-Leena Paloposki, Archives and Library Manager / Chief Curator at the Finnish National Gallery was awarded a residency, her manager Riitta Ojanperä, Director of FNG Collections Management, made an inspired suggestion that she apply to work at Europeana, because the development of the collections online is one of the main tasks of the department. Having successfully arranged a work exchange, Paloposki found herself last autumn working at Europeana’s headquarters in The Hague. The online exhibition ‘An Ecstasy of Beauty’, which is part of Europeana’s dedicated online exhibitions platform, is just one result of the time she spent there.

Featured image: ‘An Ecstasy of Beauty. Finnish Artists Travelling Beyond Europe 1882–1926’. Online exhibition in Europeana. Screen capture of the front page

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Mikko Carlstedt, Self-Portrait, 1913, oil on cardboard, 49.5cm x 42.5cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Asko Penna

Unstill Life – Mikko Carlstedt’s Correspondence and Art, 1911–1921

Max Fritze, MA student, University of Helsinki 

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery, during which Max Fritze studied material in the Archive Collections of the Finnish National Gallery

Foreword

When I applied for a position as a research intern at the Finnish National Gallery, I submitted a plan to research the November Group, a loosely described group of expressionist artists active from 1916 to 1924.[1] I wanted to approach the group through some of its lesser known members and affiliates, namely the artists Mikko Carlstedt (1892–1964) and Arvo Makkonen (1894–1956). The archive collections of both artists – comprising letters, notes, exhibition catalogues, photographs etc. – have been donated to the Finnish National Gallery. I was especially curious to see how Carlstedt saw his own position in the group as he was a member, whereas Makkonen exhibited with them as a guest artist. Were some inner workings of the November network detailed in Carlstedt’s notes or correspondence?

As I soon found out, the material I was working with did not contribute much to the discourse surrounding the November Group as such. However, the abundant archive material focused my attention on Carlstedt himself. Not much has been written about him – just some short biographical texts[2] and mentions of his name as a side note on the November Group in most broad treatises of Finnish art. In 1955, Onni Okkonen (1886–1962) wrote in his History of Finnish Art: ‘Around 1912 Mikko Carlstedt represented the new outlook on landscape painting, later on he has been known as a more conventional still-life painter.’[3] A seemingly innocuous statement, but ‘conventional’ could be easily read as a slight. All of the artist’s toil and trouble, a career spanning decades neatly compressed in a single word, effectively saying, ‘Nothing new here’. A quick image search, however, produces results that seem to mirror Okkonen’s statement; row after row of more or less classically painted still-lifes depicting colourful flowers in vases and vegetables on tables, most of them painted after the 1930s. Technically excellent and pleasing to the eye, but exactly the sort of imagery art historians rarely concern themselves with.

[1] In 1916 the core members had their first group exhibition. During their exhibition in November 1917 the group got its name and exhibited for the first time under the November Group title in 1918. It is a question of nomenclature whether one sees the group’s first exhibition taking place in 1916, 1917 or 1918.

[2] E.g. Kuuliala, Annamaija, 1992. Häkärlän haltiaväki. Hohteessa menneiden kauniiden kesien – taidetta ja taiteilijoita Sääksmäeltä. Sääksmäki: Sääksmäki-Seura, 83–94.

[3] ”V:n 1921 tienoilla esiintyi uuden maisemanäkemyksen edustajana myös Mikko Carlstedt (s.1892), myöhemmin tunnettu asetelmamaalarina sovinnaisempaan henkeen.” Okkonen, Onni, 1955. Suomen Taiteen Historia. Helsinki: WSOY, 709. All translations in this article are by the author.

Featured image: Mikko Carlstedt, Self-Portrait, 1913, oil on cardboard,
49.5cm x 42.5cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Asko Penna

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Jenna Sutela, Gut-Machine Poetry, 2017. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Screen capture of the online artwork

Beyond Human Understanding: Creating New Language and Visuals on the Web. Commissioned Online Artworks by Jenna Sutela and Tuomo Rainio

Aino Nurmesjärvi, MA Student, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery, during which Aino Nurmesjärvi conducted interviews with two of the online artists from the ‘ARS17+’ exhibition organised by the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Introduction: art on the internet

‘ARS17, a major exhibition of international contemporary art at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, in Helsinki, is the ninth ARS exhibition to be held since they began in 1961. ARS exhibitions have always reflected the topical discussions of their time[1] and the 2017 exhibition comments on the changing relationship between digital technology and the arts. Given this theme of digital revolution and Kiasma’s role as an exhibitor and collector of contemporary art in all its forms, it was decided to extend the sphere of the exhibition to include online art,[2] which resulted in ‘ARS17+ Online Art, an exhibition and a collection[3] of online art[4]. The ‘ARS17+ website describes the internet, today, as ‘a natural environment for art to grow, prosper and evolve’.[5] Yet, it is also possible to say that the internet is not necessarily a natural environment for the museum. The online collection marks a notable change.

[1] ARS 50 vuotta, muistoja, historiaa, näkökulmia 19612011, 2010.

[2] Miller 2017, 174.

[3] Most of the works in ‘ARS17+ Online Art’ belong to the Kiasma and Finnish National Gallery collections.

[4]  As a research intern at the Finnish National Gallery, I was also able to talk with the curators and other members of the museum staff behind the ‘ARS17+ Online Art’ exhibition. In this article, I use the interviews with the artists as source material. However, all the discussions have influenced my research and writing process, even the ones not explicitly cited here.

[5] Kiasma 2017.

Featured image: Jenna Sutela, Gut-Machine Poetry, 2017. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Screen capture of the online artwork

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More Research Interns Appointed at the Finnish National Gallery in 2018

The three research interns of the FNG research internship programme for 2018 have been appointed. The selections 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 second applications round of this programme, which was launched in 2017, included proposals from seven different universities in Finland and in other countries.

The FNG research intern programme has two aims. The Finnish National Gallery wishes to enhance the study of its collections, including art works, archives, and objects. At the same time we wish to support students who choose to write their master’s-level theses on subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data.

The research interns of the Finnish National Gallery for 2018 are:

Maija Grönqvist, University of Helsinki
New media art, the artworks in the collection of Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma: issues in collections management and digital preservation

Sandra Lindblom, University of Helsinki
Artist Eva Cederström (1909–95): her works in the collection of Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum and her archive and other archival material related to her at the National Gallery Archive Collections

Kersti Tainio, University of Helsinki
Old European art works in the collection of Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum brought to Finland following the Russian revolution and archival material related to them at the Finnish National Gallery

The internship period is three months. All of the interns will have their own in-house tutors to support them with studying their chosen material.

The call for research interns for 2019 will be launched in autumn 2018. We hope again to receive applications from art and cultural history students interested in our collections, who are from different universities in Finland, but also those from other countries.

More information: fngr@nationalgallery.fi