Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto), c. 1730, black chalk with white chalk highlights, 28.5cm x 21cm, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Network Gains

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum

 

26 September 2017

 

Whether we are talking about research work or exhibition planning, the key words are collaboration and networks. For curators working with Dutch and Flemish Art there is CODART, an international network for curators of art from the Low Countries. CODART organises annual conferences and other scholarly meetings that also provide platforms for exchanging ideas on research and exhibition collaboration. The Caesar van Everdingen exhibition at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum from spring 2017 is a good example of the importance of these kinds of networks.

In the field of Old Masters the research work carried out by the Sinebrychoff Art Museum is international from the very beginning. When it comes to the exhibitions, one of our strategies is organising exhibitions that grow out of the research into works that are the highlights of our own collection. The research process itself can be long and painstaking as it usually involves specialists from different fields of expertise such as conservators, technicians, of course not forgetting art historians.

A good example of this kind of international collaboration is the research work that is being carried out by the museum into the provenance of two Tiepolo paintings, The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770) and Greeks Entering Troy by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727–1804). The art of the Tiepolos was highly appreciated and sought after by the art collectors in northern countries such as Russia and Sweden during the late-18th and 19th centuries. Ira Westergård, Chief Curator at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, is leading the provenance research project on the two Tiepolo paintings. In an interview in this issue she talks about the importance of provenance research in art-historical practice.

Also in this issue of FNG Research the Finnish National Gallery is announcing its second Call for Research Interns, for 2018.

Featured image: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto), c. 1730, black chalk with white chalk highlights, 28.5cm x 21cm, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

One of the Finnish Art Society’s minute books shown open with additional inserts. Archive of the Finnish Art Society. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Minttu Juvonen

Editorial: Art History and the Spirit of Inquiry

Susanna Pettersson, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum

 

July 25 2017

 

In 1891 Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä (1847–1917) published the art history book Suomalaisen taiteen historia pääpiirteissään which was the first ever art history presentation printed in Finnish. It was a supplement to Wilhelm Lübke’s famous book Grundriss der Kunstgeschichte (Outlines of the History of Art, 1860) that had been translated into several languages, including Finnish in 1893.

Aspelin-Haapkylä told the general story passionately. And he was certainly the right man to do the job: he had already written two artists’ monographs – one published in 1888 on the sculptor Johannes Takanen, and the other in 1890 on the painter Werner Holmberg. As one of the first art historians in Finland, he felt that the country needed to understand the importance of art and its development.

There were many publications that were to follow. By the end of the nineteenth and early 20th century, art historians such as Johan Jakob Tikkanen, Onni Okkonen and Johannes Öhquist continued to research and write the story of art. In addition to these general presentations, artists’ monographs also became increasingly important. The key artists all deserved an analysis of their lifetime achievements.

These early publications explain what was valued and why, what was regarded as good and what less so, and why certain artists became more celebrated than others. The authors were all gatekeepers of their own time, having several roles such as art history writers, critics, university professors, and active members of the art world, thus being in the possession of a fair amount of cultural, economic and societal capital. Their choices mattered a lot.

Contemporary research can revisit the formation of the history of art history. It can – and must – look into what was trending at the time, what the authors read and whom they followed, how their taste was built and why, who were their friends and how the professional networks were built. The archives of the artists add to the story in a significant way.

In terms of the historical material, we can still rely on archives: rich correspondence, minutes of meetings and other documents. The closer we come to the present, the thinner the material we leave behind. Thinking about my discussions with my international or in-house colleagues, or any discussions of any member of the art world – they are mostly floating in the cloud of emails or social media messages. And who knows, some of that material could be valuable one day.

The articles in this issue remind us of the importance of the source material for research: physical art works, oral history i.e. interviews that can still be made, material that already exists in the collections that can be revisited and analysed from today’s perspective, and documents such as artists’ letters that are being acquired for the collections.

Most importantly this issue of FNG Research reminds us – as all of them do – that we must continue asking questions. This is the only way forward and the gateway to new discoveries.

Featured image: One of the Finnish Art Society’s minute books shown open with additional inserts. Archive of the Finnish Art Society. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery.
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Minttu Juvonen

Pilvi Takala, The Trainee, 2008. Installation shot, Kiasma 2009. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Editorial: A Trainee to Remember

Leevi Haapala, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

 

May 26, 2017

 

It would be a challenge for museums to manage their daily activities without skilful interns from various study programmes linked to museum studies. Each year, several students who are training at master’s level in art history, aesthetics, museology and cultural management and production come to work with us from between one and three months. They work together with museum professionals on an exhibition or research project, they help to catalogue works of art and documents for databases, update artists’ files, edit exhibition texts, just to mention some of the key tasks.

I still remember one particular trainee from 10 years ago. Kiasma’s partner at that time, Deloitte, came up with a proposal to have an artist in residence in their office building in Ruoholahti, Helsinki. The aim of the project was to re-examine the development of co-operation between the company and the museum together with an artist. The idea was to develop a new kind of project model in which three different agents could meet and learn something together. The young artist Pilvi Takala had just completed her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, and I thought she was the right person to start with a discussion about this highly unconventional trainee programme.

Her art works open up the codes of behaviour operating in different social situations, so she needed a cover story to stay in the office building without revealing her background as an artist or her research topic, namely the company as a work place and its social habits among the personnel seen from the perspective of a trainee. For Takala the internship was a one-month intervention, in which an initially normal-seeming marketing trainee started to apply peculiar working methods during the last week of the internship. For example, she stayed for a whole day in the elevator in order, she said, ‘to do the thinking work’. On another day she just calmly sat by her desk and stared ahead at law division’s office. She had hidden several cameras early in the morning in the office to document people’s reactions.

The unwritten rules, habits and practices of a work place became perceptible and re-examined during the process, feeding into her multi-channel video installation entitled The Trainee (2008), which has received worldwide recognition. Pilvi Takala will return to Kiasma in spring 2018 with a solo exhibition. She has started to prepare another exceptional project, but that is another story.

The editorial board of FNG Research has selected its first three research interns from Helsinki and Jyväskylä Universities based on an open call for applications earlier this spring. We were happy to find out that the interns had done their homework, and 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 topical materials. We’ll return to their essays on selected research matters later this year. We are happy to welcome our new interns with innovative insights!

Featured image: Pilvi Takala, The Trainee, 2008. Installation shot, Kiasma 2009. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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.