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

Louis Lagrenée the Elder, Pygmalion and His Statue, 1777, oil on canvas, 104cm x 86cm Antell Collections, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

A Show of Emotion

Interview by Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

As the Sinebrychoff Art Museum prepares to stage an exhibition on painting and the theatre, Gill Crabbe meets the show’s curator Laura Gutman, to discuss the research she carried out in order to bring this topic to life

Meeting the independent curator Laura Gutman is like meeting a detective. As curator of several shows in Finland, where she moved from Paris 17 years ago, including the recent acclaimed ‘Air de Paris’ exhibition at Helsinki Art Museum (HAM), she has used her research skills and background studying art history under Guy Cogeval at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris in the 1990s to impressive effect in Finland. Not only has she been making intriguing connections between Finnish artists and their European counterparts, but also deepening understanding of European artworks in Finnish collections. It is a busy year for Gutman as she is now in the final stages of preparing a show on theatre and painting from the 17th to early 20th centuries titled ‘Moved to Tears: Staging Emotions’ at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki.

The museum is an appropriate setting for such a subject as it is the house of the collector Paul Sinebrychoff, whose wife Fanny Grahn was herself an actress, and their rooms on the first floor are laid out almost as a series of theatrical sets, each reflecting a period from his collection. The theme of the Sinebrychoff exhibition which is held in the galleries on the ground floor, is also a subject close to Gutman’s heart, since at the Ecole du Louvre she studied the theoretical and philosophical background to painting and theatre ‘from David to Degas’. After having attended a performance in Helsinki with Finnish singer Minna Nyberg, she has developed a particular interest in the use of Baroque gesture in the fine arts.

Featured image: Louis Lagrenée the Elder, Pygmalion and his Statue, 1777, oil on canvas, 104cm x 86cm, Antell Collections, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

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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‘Moved to Tears: Staging Emotions’, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki, 13 September 2018 – 3 March 2019

Unknown Dutch Artist, Portrait of a Family, mid-17th century onwards, oil on canvas, 157cm x 208cm Gösta and Bertha Stenman Donation Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen & Henri Tuomi

Old Masters Meet Russian Revolutions

Kersti Tainio, MA, PhD Student, University of Helsinki

Old Master paintings in the Sinebrychoff Art Museum that came from Russia to Finland as a consequence of the Russian Revolutions are the subject of Kersti Tainio’s research undertaken during her recent internship at the Finnish National Gallery

Foreword

The political turmoil in Russia has unexpectedly given us a chance to rescue some of the treasures threatened with being swept away by the whirlwind of the revolution, but again, the opportunity has not been fully exploited. Some works of art have ended up here through private initiative but there have been no systematic purchases, although the owners of celebrated art collections would have sold their old Flemish and Italian works rather than see them being smashed or plundered by the Russian utopians. Now many of these works have gone to England and America.[1]

 This is what the art dealer Gösta Stenman wrote in 1919 after he had brought dozens of Old Master paintings from revolutionary Russia to Finland. In this article I shed light on the period of time between the two Russian revolutions in 1917 when there were a few Finnish people actively buying art in the chaotic capital of Russia. I will show, case by case, how this extraordinary situation affected the art collection of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum.

Provenance research is an important part of museum practice, as it may clarify or confirm attributions and dating, or even reveal the original commissioner of an artwork or help to identify a portrayed person. The subject I studied during my internship has not been systematically researched, although there are informative museum catalogues, one of which actually raised my interest in the first place.[2] Provenance research is most typically carried out in connection with forthcoming exhibitions, and that was the case with the painting Young woman with a glass of wine, holding a letter in her hand, by Gerard ter Borch. The former Chief Curator of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Marja Supinen, made an effort in the 1990s to tease out its convoluted provenance. The painting found its way to the museum collection in the early 1920s, when a Russian citizen brought it to Helsinki from Petrograd[3] and sold it to the museum. The painting had ended up in St. Petersburg in the aftermath of the French Revolution when Prince Alexander Bezborodko (1746–99) purchased it in 1795. Over 100 years later, the painting left Petrograd, ironically enough, as a consequence of the Russian Revolution.[4]

[1] ’De politiska omvälvningarna i Ryssland ha plötsligt skänkt oss en möjlighet att rädda en del av de skatter stormfloden hotat att sopa bort, men även nu har tillfället icke utnytjats. Visserligen har en del verk på privat initiativ funnit vägen till oss, men ett planmässigt förvärv har icke ägt rum. Och dock ha ägarna till berömda samlingar, hällre än de sett sina gamla holländare och italienare förstöras eller rövas av de ryska världsförbättrarna, – försålt sina skatter. En stor del av dessa verk har gått till England och Amerika.’ Gammal konst. Stenmans konstsalongs publikationer II. Helsingfors: Frenckellska Tryckeri-Aktiebolaget, 1919. My translation.

[2] Supinen, Marja. The Ter Borchs Meet Again. Helsinki: The Museum of Foreign Art Sinebrychoff. The Finnish National Gallery, 1995; Supinen, Marja. The Fine Arts Academy of Finland, Sinebrychoff Art Museum: Foreign Schools: Summary Catalogue 1: Paintings. Helsinki: Suomen taideakatemia, 1988; Keltanen, Minerva, ed. Art & Atmosphere. Helsinki: Sinebrychoff Art Museum, 2014.

[3] St. Petersburg became Petrograd in 1914 when, following the declaration of war between Germany and Russia, the former name was considered to be too German. In 1924 Petrograd was again renamed, remaining as Leningrad until 1991.

[4] Supinen 1995, 34–35, 43.

Featured image: Unknown Dutch artist, Portrait of a Family, mid-17th century onwards, oil on canvas, 157cm x 208cm, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen & Henri Tuomi

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.

Read more — Download ‘Old Masters Meet Russian Revolutions’, by Kersti Tainio, as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, En Saga (Jean Sibelius and Fantasy Landscape), 1894, gouache and watercolour on paper, 31cm x 17cm and 24cm x 30cm. Ainola Foundation. Photo Finnish National Gallery Hannu Pakarinen

Association for Art History (AAH) Annual Conference 2018, Courtauld Institute of Art & King’s College London

5–7 April 2018, London

Here we publish the Finnish National Gallery’s contribution to the 2018 AAH Conference comprising conference abstracts from the two Finnish National Gallery delegates

Featured image: Akseli Gallen-Kallela, En Saga (Jean Sibelius and Fantasy Landscape), 1894, gouache and watercolour on paper, 31cm x 17cm and 24cm x 30cm. Ainola Foundation. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Between Sounding Canvas and Visual Music: from Sibelius to Kupka

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

Session: Seeing and Hearing the ‘Beyond’: Art, Music and Mysticism in the Long 19th century

Download the Conference Abstract as a PDF >>

The Nordic Art Journal: Writing New Art History

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

Session: Remembering and Forgetting the Enlightenment

Download the Conference Abstract as a PDF >>