Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, oil on canvas, 70cm x 90cm, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

Editorial – Stimulating Research through Collections’ Metadata

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


19 July 2018


Multiculturalism and opening up to the changes and challenges of today’s world are topics that are often discussed when museum professionals get together in meetings and conferences. It is about being relevant to the societies around us.

Collections are traditionally considered the core of museums and the kernel of museums’ role as providers of reliable knowledge about culture and its history. Therefore a significant interest in the histories of collections – that is for whom, in what historical period and for what reasons the collections were formed – has been shown within the museums themselves, as well as in the academic field.

Metadata is a key concept when talking about making collections and collections’ data relevant. Metadata creates patterns of knowledge that are connected with each single object in the collection. The data are gathered in museums’ databases and, ideally, shared via digital platforms, thus serving as an important primary source for academic research, as well as other interests.

The ways in which we organise, enrich and share the metadata that is formatting the knowledge do matter. This part of professional practice has the potential to reflect a museum’s and its collection’s relevance and also offers the possibility to participate in current discourses within academic research fields. Collections as sets of chosen objects are relatively static, but the metadata connected to them, and the procedures for constituting knowledge, need not be.

The Finnish National Gallery has very recently accomplished the task of migrating its collections’ data to a new database system and we are planning to share the data on a new website next year. We are also looking forward to experimenting with crowdsourcing keywords.

While doing this, we will be happy to hear about our colleagues’ experiences and to share with others what we are learning.

Wishing you all a nice summer!

Featured image: Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, oil on canvas, 70cm x 90cm, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum

On the Finnish National Gallery’s website the basic information given about this painting is: Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, Keywords: kesä, maisema, heinäpelto, figuuri, yö, nainen, allegoria. In future we wish to share the keywords with you also in English: summer, landscape, hayfield, figure, night, woman, allegory.

Information about the FNG collection is also available on these data platforms:

Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

The interior of Seppo Fränti’s apartment photographed when the first tranche of his donated art collection was transported to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in May 2018. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Editorial – Seppo Fränti Donates his Art Collection to Kiasma

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


25 May, 2018


The Finnish art collector and philanthropist Seppo Fränti has decided to donate his entire contemporary art collection, comprising more than 700 works, to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki. The collection represents more than 100 artists, and about half of the artists are already included in Kiasma’s collections with their later works.

The profile of the Fränti collection is unique: it is very personal, brave, and up to date and it has two different focuses – the tradition of expressionistic painting, and works based on hard-edge painting and post-conceptual art. Classical two-dimensional mediums are predominant: most of the collection comprises paintings or paper-based works, including drawings, photographs, and graphic art, along with some sculptures and objects. The Kiasma collection also shares the same key focus on very recent contemporary art by living artists.

Fränti’s name became well known in 2000 when he was taken hostage by Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines on the remote jungle island of Jolo. After 140 days of what he described as ‘living hell’, kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, Fränti was released along with four other westerners. Fränti has explained that drawing helped him through his depressive period following his experiences on Jolo. ‘I was very down. I drew and this helped me very much,’ he said. His life changed after that drastically, and collecting art, as well as drawing, became an important tool in his personal survival kit.

Fränti had already started collecting art at the turn of the 1970s and 80s. After his time being held hostage, it became a more serious pursuit, and he also found his focus – collecting contemporary art by emerging Finnish artists. The collection also includes some more established artists, such as Olli Marttila, Outi Heiskanen, Henry Wuorila-Stenberg, Jukka Korkeila and Heikki Marila. Many of them have been teachers and professors for younger-generation artists such as Janne Räisänen, Olli Piippo, Liisa Lounila, Jyrki Riekki, Robin Lindqvist and Reima Nevalainen. Fränti is often seen as a welcome guest at opening receptions in galleries and art museums and he also visits artists’ studios regularly, as well as art students before they have even participated in their final exhibition ‘Kuvan Kevät’ at the Academy of Fine Arts, (University of Arts, Helsinki).

Seppo Fränti’s collection was shown in 2016 as a selected exhibition entitled ‘Wound’ at Lapinlahti, a cultural centre located in an old psychiatric hospital in Helsinki. Fränti himself curated the show and installed it with the kind help of a group of artists who are represented in the collection. The collection’s artists have become true friends of Fränti. The exhibition venue, the old Medical Director’s residence at the disused Lapinlahti hospital, also resonated with the role of the collection as a meaningful way to handle the core issues of humanity. The works reflect how to overcome situations when an individual is in the most fragile position, and how to live a full life in a time of joys and sorrows. Fränti’s collection is also a perfect example of showing different audiences how the art around you can help to communicate very personal experiences, and also demonstrates the particular role that visual arts have in today’s society.

Now it is our turn to initiate our part of the deal. Earlier this week the first 20 larger-scale paintings were packed and moved from Fränti’s apartment to Kiasma. Over the next two years the collection will undergo collection management and handling. Conservators will make their comments and reports on the condition of each work, and following that they will be photographed, catalogued and stored by the Finnish National Gallery’s professional collection team. The collection will be exhibited in the summer of 2020 as a large collection display with a salon-style hang. Along with the exhibition a research-based publication, including photographs from Seppo Fränti’s home, will be published. Like the collector said at a recent press conference, his children now have a new family and a new home at Kiasma and the Finnish National Gallery.

New interns with a special research interest in this collection, are most welcome to apply to the next round of internships at the Finnish National Gallery in the autumn of 2018.

Featured image: The interior of Seppo Fränti’s apartment, photographed when the first tranche of his donated art collection was transported to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in May 2018. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Vincent van Gogh: Street in Auvers-sur-Oise. Photograph: Kansallisgalleria / Eweis, Yehia

Editorial: Seeing into the Future

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


29 March 2018


In February the Finnish National Gallery released more than 12,000 images of copyright-free artworks into the public domain. With this great opening up we are of course reaching out to anybody interested in art but we also hope it will help and inspire researchers internationally as they can now freely download high-quality jpeg images for study purposes, presentations and online publications. These 12,000 artworks represent 1,144 artists, including many renowned Finnish artists, such as Helene Schjerfbeck and Hugo Simberg, as well as international artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch.

At the same time the Finnish National Gallery is preparing to start using its new collections management system, which brings all the collections – artworks, objects and archive collections – into one and the same database for the first time. We are also planning our new collections online web pages which will be launched next year. Improving the online availability of our collections is a pivotal way to enhance research related to them, through providing more opportunities for study.

The images under the CC0 license are available on our Art Collections online website, but they have also been released at Europeana, a digital platform for European cultural heritage, and can thus be downloaded from the Europeana portal, too, as we want to share them with as wide and as international an audience as possible, researchers and students included. From now on we will be using the CC0-licensed images in FNG Research, too, whenever it is possible.

In this issue we are examining the research related to the Finnish National Gallery from three different angles: our research internship programme, FNG staff undertaking specific research, and international co-operation. The article by one of our research interns for 2017, Irene Riihimäki, sheds new light on the early stages of Finnish art education in the middle of the 19th century. Our senior conservator Dr. Ari Tanhuanpää is scrutinising the lifespan of artworks from a philosophical perspective and boldly questions whether an artwork does in fact have a lifespan. As an example of international co-operation is the article on the Russian artist Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe (1969–2013), written by two prominent researchers from St. Petersburg, Dr. Olesya Turkina and Dr. Victor Mazin, published in connection with the retrospective exhibition of the artist at The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.

Finnish National Gallery Art Collections online

Europeana Collections

Featured image: Vincent van Gogh, Street in Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890, oil on canvas,
73.5cm x  92.5cm
Antell Collections, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

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.

Masterpieces of Finnish Art at the Europeana Collections

Editorial: Learning by Doing – the Value of Research Internships

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


25 January 2018


Last year the Finnish National Gallery launched a research internship programme for master’s-level students in art history, cultural history and museology. The first round of applications resulted in employing three graduate students for a three-month period during the autumn of 2017.

As a museum organisation, the FNG feels deeply its responsibility to pass on to future museum professionals and researchers of art and cultural history the enthusiasm, commitment and practical skills to work with a variety of art-historical sources. The defined task of each intern was to engage in hands-on original research using a selected part of the Finnish National Gallery’s collections. The interns had two nominated mentors from the FNG senior curatorial staff with substantial research expertise to support their work.

The interns were expected to reflect their own research questions and interests in relation to the information and issues raised by working intensively and purposively in our research archives. They were also expected to produce a text related to their materials and working process.

In this issue of the FNG Research web magazine we are delighted to publish the results of the research carried out by two of our first three research interns. It turned out, that their readiness and assiduity in answering the challenge of writing a professional scientific article exceeded our expectations. The authors Aino Nurmesjärvi and Max Fritze are Finnish MA students, whose articles are based on the work carried out during their research internship periods.

FNG’s commitment, however, extends not only to future generations of researchers and museum professionals but also to the continuing development of its own staff, through its staff residency programme. While our first research interns were delving into our archives, one of the FNG’s senior professionals, Dr. Hanna-Leena Paloposki, was taking part in a work exchange programme at the Europeana Foundation office in The Hague, also during the autumn of 2017. Her target was to amplify FNG’s know-how regarding compiling and publishing digital collections’ data in a substantial international and pragmatic context. She explains how she got on in an interview in this issue.

Featured image: Screen capture of the front page of the image gallery ’Masterpieces of Finnish Art’ on the Europeana Collections website featuring art works from the Finnish National Gallery collections

Screen capture of the Finnish National Gallery Archive Collections webpage Lähteillä with material related to artist Hugo Simberg

Editorial: Linking Researchers and Museum Collections Data

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


30 November 2017


One of the topics of this issue is Hugo Simberg (1873–1917), who is one of the most well-known artists in the Finnish art of the turn of the 19th century. Many national
art histories have their ‘golden ages’ and Finland’s relates to this particular period
when Hugo Simberg, together with artists such as Helene Schjerfbeck and Akseli
Gallen-Kallela, renewed Finnish visual art in the spirit of international early modernism. A fascinating aspect of Hugo Simberg’s work has always been the way in which he weaves myths and tales together with an animated feeling of nature.

Hugo Simberg is also one of the artists who is exceptionally richly represented in the Finnish National Gallery’s collections. Together with some 800 art works, the museum holds a significant number of documents such as the artist’s letters and photographs both taken by him or of him. All of the materials in the collections have been thoroughly catalogued at different times, according to varying methods and means.

Today, museums and other cultural heritage organisations are expected to emphasise their ability and willingness to share the cultural property that they possess as widely as possible. At the Finnish National Gallery digital technologies have enabled us to increase digital collections data in our databases and to deliver this information via cultural heritage platforms such as Europeana or the Finnish portal Finna.

Even so, there is still a whole lot of work to be done. Improving collections metadata together with choosing the right digital platforms will enable us to connect datasets that have not previously been linked. If we succeed in carrying out this current objective, this will also strengthen our role as a relevant research organisation and facilitator. All users of digital collections will profit from better data, researchers and research included.

Generating principles for creating relevant collections metadata that meet the needs of future research also requires research skills. We need clearly defined problems to be solved, relevant working methods shared by an active team and a focused plan for reaching the goal. A museum’s mission of being a source of high-quality knowledge is no longer fulfilled only by keeping the collections but also by finding ways to connect those collections to other sources of knowledge via digital metadata.

At the Finnish National Gallery we are looking forward to migrating all of the collections data to a new platform. In the future we wish to serve researchers all around the world with data that will foster the creation of new knowledge about artists such as Hugo Simberg in new and so far unimagined contexts.

To view Hugo Simberg’s works at the Finnish National Gallery’s current collections web page click here:

Featured image: Screen capture of the Finnish National Gallery Archive Collections webpage Lähteillä with material related to artist Hugo Simberg


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