People queuing for the ’ARS 83 HELSINKI’ exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum in autumn 1983. Photographer Ilkka Leino. Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Collections – Fresh Viewpoints and New Openings

Hanna-Leena Paloposki, PhD, Archive and Library Manager and Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery


March 23, 2017


Collections are closely linked to the exhibition programme of the Finnish National Gallery’s three museums, collections exhibitions being an important part, and the research projects behind them always have their basis in our own collections.

TheStories of Finnish Art’ collections exhibition has now been on display at the Ateneum Art Museum for a year and will continue till 2020. When the project started, one of the leading ideas was to engage people from all the different areas of expertise in the museum to look at the collections and their display in a new way. From the start, the visual design was seen as an indispensable part of telling the stories of Finnish art. In an FNG Research interview Museum Director Susanna Pettersson and the exhibition designer Marcel Schmalgemeijer explain the process of making the collections exhibition at the Ateneum.

Sometimes temporary exhibitions form the starting point for new developments in collecting. The ‘ARS17 Hello World!’ exhibition at Kiasma (31 March, 2017 – 14 January, 2018), besides being a link in a chain of important international contemporary art shows in Finland, is also marking a new phase in collecting contemporary art for the FNG collections: starting an online artwork collection that is accessible on the web. It has required philosophical-theoretical thinking and the examination of legal, technical and conservational matters. How to buy and include in a museum collection an artwork that is digital, ephemeral and already available to all on the web and how to preserve it for future generations? In this issue FNG Research offers its readers two possibilities to get acquainted with this post-internet art: an interview with two chief curators of Kiasma, Arja Miller and Marja Sakari, and an article on online art by Arja Miller.

The new research internship programme that the Finnish National Gallery launched in March also has its focus on the collections. The programme has two aims. Finnish National Gallery wishes to emphasise the study of its collections, including artworks, 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. In 2017 we are prepared to recruit three research interns, each for a period of three months, to study pre-chosen material in the Finnish National Gallery collections. We are also envisaging that the resulting reports and texts can be published in FNG Research. While writing this editorial the first application period is currently underway.

We are looking forward to welcoming our first research interns and a new kind of international collaboration with universities in order to enhance collections research together.

Featured image: People queuing for the ’ARS 83 HELSINKI’ exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum in autumn 1983. Photographer Ilkka Leino.
Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Selections from the Finnish National Gallery archive collections are shown permanently in the collections exhibition The Stories of Finnish Art at the Ateneum Art Museum. A display case containing material related to Finnish artists in Italy at the end of the 19th century Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Editorial: Looking for New Ways to Facilitate Research

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


January 25, 2017


The year 2017 marks the centenary of Finland’s independence. The Finnish National Gallery, together with other Finnish cultural organisations, has designed its programmes underlining the historic span of Finnish cultural history. The FNG, with its three museums, extends to the still unseen future at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, to the highlights of its 19th- and 20th-century collections and collecting at the Ateneum Art Museum, and to European 17th-century painting that relates to the art shown at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum.

This momentous occasion creates an opportunity to reminisce about the important resources for art- historic and cultural-historic research that form a part of the national collections maintained at the Finnish National Gallery. The first acquisitions for the archival collections, made at the end of the 19th century, were artists’ letters. They were put forward by the Finnish Art Society founded in 1846, an organization that was vital in promoting Finnish art and laying the foundation for our collections.

From there on, the resources have increased significantly and keeping them available for the special interest group of researchers has been an important part of the Finnish National Gallery’s policy.

This year we are remodelling our ways of facilitating research. Our special focus is a new programme for collaborating with the future generation of art history scholars and art museum professionals.

Our wish is to raise new interest in research topics based on our resources. We also wish to be an active and innovative partner in collaborating with the academic scene with whom we deeply share the mission of reinforcing humanistic values and the importance of understanding the world and human culture by creating new, meaningful and relevant knowledge. For this purpose we will also be launching later this spring a call for master’s-level art history or cultural history students to work with us as research apprentices for a couple of months.

For more information on research topics and material please open at the top of the Home page a new section of this publication titled ‘FNG Resources’. The call for research apprentices will be added there later.

Featured image: Selections from the Finnish National Gallery archive collections are shown permanently in the collections exhibition The Stories of Finnish Art at the Ateneum Art Museum. A display case containing material related to Finnish artists in Italy at the end of the 19th century
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Salla Tykkä, Giant, 2013. A still from an HD video 12:9, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Hear the Heartbeats of Museum Collections

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


‘Is “contemporary” the name of an art-historical period that has succeeded modernism, or does ‘contemporaneity’ mean that periodization is past (an anachronism from modernity) both in general culture and in art?’  This question from the Australian art historian Terry Smith prompts us to think about the meaning of living today and actively shaping our cultural heritage. Is contemporary art a label for today’s art, or is ‘contemporaneity’ also something that can be found from each historical period?

Art collection is one way of telling our story as a nation. That is a big challenge. What kind of story do we want to tell? And how do we want to be remembered by future citizens and museum visitors from other countries? Who are we, who are those who belong to ‘us’, and how is the nation defined through art? Museum directors need to face these questions every time they plan a new collection display or write an article about one of the museum’s many collections.

The art museum is a collecting institution. The collections of the Finnish National Gallery comprise around 40,000 works of art, objects and an art-historical research archive. The collections are closely integrated into the three museums’ exhibition programmes in the Ateneum Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. In the current edition of FNG Research, all three museum directors reveal the timespan and the guidelines for current acquisitions. Each time has valued its art differently – asking what is important, who are the artists to represent the nation or a particular patron, what is the relationship between private and public collections, whose taste to follow? The exhibition and research activities of the three museums range from contemporary digital art and European old masters to the constitutive history of Finnish art before and after Independence. One time’s novelty is today’s antiquity.

Collection is a wider concept than just the body of works. The organisation of exhibitions and public programmes inside the museum goes hand in hand with acquiring collections. Every year a number of pieces exhibited in the temporary exhibitions programme of the three museums augment the collections: either as purchased works of art, or through documenting them in photographs, artist interviews and research articles. Museums create narratives around the collections and about the collections via arts professionals together with living artists or with the help of documents. The art-historical archive is a treasure, full of artists’ correspondence and notebooks, audio records and media archives, art reviews, and even more.

Contemporary art is created and displayed in a context that is characterised by interaction between local and global culture. Finnish contemporary art, too, has become an important part of the international scene with its biennales, topical museum exhibitions, international artist residencies and art fairs. Kiasma’s collections are currently developed by acquiring important works of contemporary art of outstanding quality, regardless of national or geographic boundaries and yet with an underlying focus on art from nearby regions. Kiasma’s mission is to collect current contemporary art that reflects the times as broadly as possible. Important factors that determine acquisitions are an understanding of the times, fearless vision and sensitivity to phenomena such as network culture. As the Ateneum Art Museum’s Director Susanna Pettersson remarks in her paper in this edition, ‘The trends of the 21st century urge the museum field to share collection resources and to make better and more effective use of collections.’ That is precisely the target we are aiming at in Kiasma too, as we prepare to launch a digital Online Art Collection as a part of the forthcoming ‘ARS17’ exhibition. Through this initiative, online commissions will be made directly accessible to our digital natives wherever they may be.

The collection is the heart of the museum!

Featured image: Salla Tykkä, Giant, 2013. A still from an HD video 12:9, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery

Artists and teachers with their spouses in Düsseldorf in the 1850s. On the left, Werner Holmberg (1830–1860), one of the first Finnish artists to have studied in Düsseldorf. Black-and-white print on paper from the 1890s, reproduction of original print. Finnish National Gallery archive prints.

Editorial: Going Solo

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


September 22, 2016


This autumn the Finnish National Gallery celebrates internationally acknowledged artists such as Mona Hatoum and Amedeo Modigliani. Hatoum has a strong voice in the contemporary art scene. Her political works pinpoint the issues that we all should be aware of. Modigliani, in his turn, is known for his unique paintings and sculptures but also because of his dramatic life story: drugs and poverty combined with the deep passion to create.

Museums are platforms for exhibitions that touch our hearts and souls. However, this has not always been the case. In the 19th century, art museums throughout Europe mainly presented exhibitions of collections according to the schools, such as the Dutch and Flemish, or Renaissance art, rather than focusing on individual artists. Yet the key figures of art history were sculpted, carved, or their names inscribed on museum walls and facades all over Europe, from London to Paris and Helsinki. Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo were among the most frequently used names in this imaginary hall of fame. It’s somewhat striking that while the value and interest of exceptional artists’ careers were understood, retrospective exhibitions as we understand them today, became increasingly popular only after the mid-19th century.

The interest in exploring the careers of individual artists grew hand in hand with the development of art-historical research. Encyclopaedic art-historical presentations written by Franz Theodor Kugler, Karl Schnaase or Wilhelm Lübke, for example, provided a framework for the discourse in the 19th century. Within the same time frame the first artist monographs were published. They opened up possibilities for the better understanding of art history, and inspired museums to start focusing on exhibitions that explored one artist only. Specific sites and museums dedicated to single artists were opened: among the first were the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen (1848) Antonio Canova’s Gipsoteca in Possagno, Italy (1853) and the Ingres’ Room (1851/54), now part of the Musée Ingres in Montauban, France.

In Finland the first retrospective exhibition was organised to honour the memory of Werner Holmberg (1830–60) whose blossoming career as a landscape painter was cut short by his untimely death. The exhibition, mounted by the Finnish Art Society, was opened in September 1861 at the grand gallery of the Societetshuset in Helsinki, a venue where the upper class organised large-scale events. This time, there were no real possibilities for any research. That came later in 1890, when Finnish art historian Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä published the first proper monograph about Werner Holmberg, in connection with the artist’s exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki.

The link between research and exhibitions is vital. It has always been, and today even more so. This is perhaps something that we should highlight even more: that the best exhibitions are always based on scholarly and ambitious research. Every phenomenon, every artist and even every work has a story to tell. And these stories can lead to life-changing thoughts and experiences.

Featured image: Artists and teachers with their spouses in Düsseldorf in the 1850s. On the left, Werner Holmberg (1830–1860), one of the first Finnish artists to have studied in Düsseldorf. Black-and-white print on paper from the 1890s, reproduction of original print. Finnish National Gallery Archive.

Giovanni Domenico Bossi, Portrait of a Lady, undated, watercolour and gouache on ivory, 6,3cm x 6,3cm, Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Editorial: Sinebrychoff’s Small Gems

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Sinebrychoff Art Museum


July 14, 2016


The renowned art collector Paul Sinebrychoff had a special interest in portraits. He also gathered a rare collection of miniatures which, in his own time in the late 19th century, was the largest collection in Northern Europe. The collection includes about 400 pieces and is still the most important collection in Finland.

About 15 years ago, the miniatures were studied and conservation work was then carried out on them as part of a thorough renewal and restoration of the museum building of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum on Bulevardi in Helsinki. However, as is the case with every part of the collection, they need to be taken care of on a continuous basis. Now, the miniatures are being treated again. There are only a few specialists in miniature painting conservation. Dr. Bernd Pappe, who is interviewed in this issue, is a world-renowned specialist in this field, as well as an art historian. He reveals the painstaking work behind the scenes.

During the past two years special effort has been put into developing the access to the art works in Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s house museum. It is an essential part of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s new strategy to engage our audiences and generate a new kind of dialogue and encounter with the art works in the milieu of the collector’s home, which is a unique example of its kind in Finland. When visiting our website you can already have a virtual tour of the house museum or make acquaintance with Paul Sinebrychoff’s favourite portraits – his friends as he used to call them – hanging in his study.

Museum curator Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi has studied the miniature collection. She is currently leading a project on the miniatures, which enables us to present them with a digital platform to make them more accessible and even more enjoyable and exciting to the general public.

Featured image: Giovanni Domenico Bossi, Portrait of a Lady, undated, watercolour and gouache on ivory, 6,3cm x 6,3cm, Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Editorial: For the Record

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


May 26, 2016


Since the coming of Foucault and his contemporary poststructuralist theorists, the epistemological conception of knowledge has not been the same. The cultural positions of categories and subjects of knowledge and the formation of historical narratives have made institutions like museums more aware of their historiographic status. A significant interest in archives both as physical entities and as metaphors of understanding or controlling the world has manifested in contemporary artworks, as well as providing a focus for art-historical research questions.

The Finnish National Gallery’s archival collections have offered research material for art and art history discourse since the late 19th century, when the collecting and preserving of artists’ letters, among other archival objects, first began.

In March 2016 the Ateneum Art Museum of the Finnish National Gallery opened a new collections display, ‘Stories of Finnish Art’, which, together with the artworks, showcases the richness of archival materials from the collections. The display reveals the archives’ multifaceted nature as sources for art history, as historical reminiscences and as aesthetic inspiration for exhibition design.

A praiseworthy amount of labour and confidence in providing future generations with the ingredients of knowledge has been invested in indexing press clippings since the early 1890s. We are now happy to share, in digital form, the information content and nostalgic beauty of hand-written index cards in our archives, containing data on press articles or news items on more than 24,000 artists.

Featured image: An index card of archival material relating to Akseli Gallén-Kallela now available in digital format.

To view the archival index cards, visit:

You are welcome to read the current issue of FNG Research and to take part in narrating the stories of Finnish art and its international contexts.

Suohpanterror, Checkpoint n:o 169, 2015, a series of posters, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, installation view, DEMONSTRATING MINDS: Disagreements in, Contemporary Art, 9.10.2015 - 20.03.2016. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Editorial: Should Art Have a Nation? And How Global Are We?

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


March 24, 2016


Nationalistic agendas are very strong in many European countries, and unfortunately Finland is no exception. The rise of nationalism also has its influences on the art world, where international activity has been one of the key elements. Today I can also hear echoes of polarised populistic discussion when visiting different board meetings and panels. ‘Should we support all artists living and working in Finland, or just Finnish artists?’ Public debate and the political climate in Finland have long been defined by a spirit of consensus and a striving for unanimity. Yet, with only one valid truth accepted at any given time, this climate of perpetual consensus sometimes grew to be suffocating.

Over the past year, Kansalaistori Square, Helsinki’s new outdoor public meeting place behind Kiasma, has been the stage for various demonstrations supporting everything from same-sex marriages to multiculturalism, as well as anti-racist rallies. Our immediate context is a melting pot where many agendas and people from all walks of society meet, collide and interact, and Kiasma strives to highlight a varied spectrum of themes in its seasonal programme. The ‘Demonstrating Minds’ exhibition, which opened in October 2105, is an international survey of political art, and it looks at how critical thinking and social consciousness manifest both locally and globally in contemporary art and in relation to art history. Answers that the artists give us in the form of works of art are more on a personal level. Each one of them is taking a stand by provoking even more complex and specific questions.

International politics has always influenced the art world: how artists work, travel and collect influences, and also how art history has been written in different times and revisited in the light of current topics and research results. In February 2016, the Ateneum Art Museum opened a large survey exhibition, ‘Japanomania in the Nordic Countries 1875–1918. Now it is possible to see Nordic golden age classics with a Japoniste twist – the signs and visual elements have been there even if we haven’t noticed them. At the end of the 19th century Japonisme took Europe by storm, spreading out from the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris. It was part of a wider interest in the so-called Orient. Orientalism, a concept of the difference between East and West, between Orient and Continent, was created through an understanding and awareness of differences in cultural practices which that era’s Western anthropologists, historians and artists from different fields carried into their works.

In the current situation, there is still on-going mutual interest between these cultures. Even if we lose a lot of meanings in cultural translation, thanks to individual researchers we have now more knowledge and vivid interpretations. And after all, we like to rely on recognisable aesthetic and visual qualities that are shared between Japan and the Nordic countries, such as sophisticated minimalism and nature references. Still, we could ask: Should art have a nation? Or does art belong to some specific region? Is there Finnish art, and if so, does it include Nordic qualities or does it come, for example, with Japoniste influences?

In January 2016, Frame Visual Art Finland commissioned a survey from the Foundation for Cultural Policy Research Cupore. One of the key notions highlighted in its report, From Cultural Influences and Exports to Dialogue and Networking, is how the nature of international activity in contemporary art has changed significantly. It has moved from cultural diplomacy between states towards multidirectional and multidimensional activity within networks. Internationality is also an integral part in Kiasma’s activities in terms of our acquisitions policy, research orientation, and especially programme making.

In the current Internet era we are living in a far-reaching world, and can share a feeling of being in different places at the same time. Our mindset has gradually changed. I would say that the art of our time – all times? – and also new art history writing, go hand in hand with global art life and international activity. The development of digital technology has substantially influenced the nature of international activities by making communication easier, even making it possible to move works in digital format across borders. We not only reflect cultural influences in art or exhibition-making, but actively produce it in our daily professional lives as curators, researchers and museum directors.

Featured image: Installation view of Suohpanterror, Checkpoint n:o 169, 2015, a series of posters on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma exhibition ‘Demonstrating Minds: Disagreements in Contemporary Art’, 2016.
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Download the PDF of the report, From Cultural Influences and Exports to Dialogue and Networking from the Frame Finland website: