Paul Gauguin, printer Pola Gauguin, Te po (Night Eternal), 1893–94 (printed 1921) woodcut, 20.5 x 25.5cm Ahlström collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Artek – a Bridge to the International Art World

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

 Also published in Sointu Fritze (ed.), Alvar Aalto – Art and the Modern Form. Ateneum Publications Vol. 93. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2017, 48–69. Transl. Wif Stenger

The exhibitions organised by the Artek gallery enjoy an almost iconic status in the field of Finnish art. These exhibitions were bold and ambitious. The idea behind them was to bring together modern art, industry, interior design and ‘propaganda’, by which was meant publishing activity. The exhibitions also left a lasting mark on Finnish art and on the Ateneum art collection.

‘Europe – its symbol could be […] an airplane above a cathedral. America – its symbol is an airplane above a skyscraper. In the latter picture, there is perfect harmony. In the first there is not. The former represents the present day. The latter, the future.’ [1]

It was with these words that the writer Olavi Paavolainen, in his book Nykyaikaa etsimässä (In Search of Modern Time), published in 1929, expressed his generation’s desire to see the world through new eyes. Finnish artists were accustomed to finding inspiration broadly in European countries, primarily in France, Germany and Italy. Paavolainen had, in his dreams, travelled further afield, as far as New York and Chicago.

Paavolainen’s book tackled three themes: the modern European lifestyle, new trends in art and the new image of humanity. Paavolainen wrote with great passion on behalf of modernity and against conservatism. He emphasised that in ‘developing a modern view of life’ one should pay attention to all the arts, meaning literature, the visual arts, theatre and music. He considered architecture an applied art, regarding Le Corbusier as one of the boldest theorists in his field.[2] Paavolainen sought out the avant-garde spirit in those around him, mentioning by name many Finnish and foreign contemporary artists, writers and architects. However, in his view, in Finland there was only one interesting architect – Alvar Aalto. Paavolainen described him as ‘a practical man with a bold approach and a daring theorist’.[3] And besides, Aalto – unlike many others – travelled by airplane.[4]

[1] Olavi Paavolainen, Nykyaikaa etsimässä (Helsinki: Otava, 1929), 145. Quoted in Finnish as: ‘Eurooppa – sen tunnuskuvana voisi olla […] katedraalin yllä liitelevä lentokone. Amerikka – sen tunnuskuvana on lentokone pilvenpiirtäjän yllä. Viimemainitussa näyssä on täydellinen harmonia. Ensin mainitussa ei. Edellinen esittää nykyisyyttä. Jälkimmäinen tulevaisuutta.

[2] Paavolainen 1929, 29 and 32.

[3] Paavolainen 1929, 51.

[4] Paavolainen 1929, 148.

Featured image: Paul Gauguin, printer Pola Gauguin, Te po (Night Eternal), 1893–94 (printed 1921), woodcut, 20.5 x 25.5cm, Ahlström collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

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Alongside the exhibition ‘Alvar Aalto – Art and the Modern Form,’ two conferences are being held at the Ateneum Art Museum: Alvar Aalto – Art and the Modern Form (in English and Finnish), 24 August; Aino Marsio-Aalto as a Designer (in Finnish), 9 September. For full details and programme visit http://www.ateneum.fi/nayttelyt/alvar-aalto/?lang=en

Ilona Harima, Buddha and Two Bodhisattvas, 1947 gouache, 24.5 x 20.5cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Ilona Harima – On the Road to Enlightenment

Erkki Anttonen, PhD, Senior Researcher, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

First published as a summary of Erkki Anttonen’s article in Hätönen, Helena and Ojanperä, Riitta (eds.), Ilona Harima. Valaistumisen tiellä. Kuvataiteen keskusarkisto (Central Art Archives) 23. Finnish National Gallery / Central Art Archives, 2011. Transl. Diane Tullberg

In 2011, the Finnish National Gallery published a book on the Finnish artist Ilona Harima, whose distinctive art was strongly influenced by Theosophy, Esotericism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. A small exhibition was mounted at the Ateneum Art Museum then, too. Due to the international interest in the history of Theosophy and its relationship to the visual arts FNG Research is republishing an English summary on Harima and her art, which was first published in the above mentioned book

The art produced in Finland during the inter-war period has not yet been fully studied. In particular, the women artists of the period have been given little attention, and some who worked on the fringes of the art world may even have been forgotten. One such is Ilona Harima, who produced highly personal work diverging greatly from the dominant trends of the time.

Ilona Harima (married name Rautiala as of 1939) was born in 1911 in Vaasa on Finland’s west coast. Her parents Samuli and Anna originally had the surname Hohenthal, but changed this to Harima in 1936. Samuli Harima (1879–1962) was a successful Ostrobothnian businessman, influential in economic circles, and the wealth he accumulated allowed his daughter Ilona to pursue a career as a professional artist. In early 1918 her father’s work prompted a family move to Helsinki, and it was here that Ilona went to school, gaining her middle-school leaving certificate in 1927. The following year she began to study art in the graphics department of the Central School of Applied Arts, though she stayed there for only a couple of years at most.

Featured image: Ilona Harima, Buddha and Two Bodhisattvas, 1947. Gouache, 24.5 x 20.5cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

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Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Landscape with sheep (1884, oil on canvas, 22cm x 34.5cm) is one of the paintings to be included in Hanne Mannerheimo’s research – she is especially interested in its green and blue areas. Antell Collections, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.

Dissertation in Progress: Analytical Pigment Studies as a Tool for Art Research

Hanne Mannerheimo, PhD. Student, Museology, University of Jyväskylä / Research Assistant, Materials Research Laboratory, Finnish National Gallery 

This is a brief introduction to my dissertation that concentrates on Finland’s tangible cultural heritage, or more precisely, on the investigation of the materials used to create it. In January 2017, I received a one-year research grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation to make an analytical investigation of pigments used in the work of the most well-known Finnish artists of the 19th century. My aim for the first working year is to concentrate on the pigment palette of Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931). All material analyses will be conducted in co-operation with and under the supervision of the Finnish National Gallery’s Senior Conservation Scientist Seppo Hornytzkyj. The material for this research consists of artworks by Gallen-Kallela that are in the possession of the Finnish National Gallery and also the Gallen-Kallela Museum in Tarvaspää, Espoo. I will also analyse pigments and other artists’ materials that belonged to the Gallen-Kallela family and which are now in the collection of the Gallen-Kallela Museum.

Up to now the palette and chronology of pigments used by the great Finnish artists are known only in a few cases. With the help of the grant, Gallen-Kallela’s palette will be thoroughly researched. The data will be of indispensable help in dating and attribution studies, in answering and solving conservation and restoration-related questions and problems, as well as in revealing forgeries. Akseli Gallen-Kallela is one of the most valued Finnish artists and also one whose works have been extensively copied and imitated by art forgers in Finland. The results of the analyses will be published in FNG Research as one or two scientific, peer-reviewed articles, which will be included in my article-based dissertation.

Featured image: Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Landscape with sheep (1884, oil on canvas, 22 x 34.5cm) is one of the paintings to be included in Hanne Mannerheimo’s research – she is especially interested in its green and blue areas.
Antell Collections, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.

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First Research Interns Appointed at the Finnish National Gallery

The first three research interns of the FNG research internship programme have now been appointed. The selections were made on the basis of written 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

This first round of applications included proposals from students at three Finnish universities, Helsinki, Jyväskylä and Lapland (Rovaniemi). The next round will be organised in autumn 2017 and we hope again to receive applications from art and cultural history students interested in our collections, who are from universities throughout Finland, but also those from 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 first research interns of the Finnish National Gallery are:

Max Fritze, University of Helsinki
Collections and archival material relating to the subject: Mikko Carlstedt and Arvo Makkonen Archives, November Group

Aino Nurmesjärvi, University of Jyväskylä
Collections and archival material relating to the subject: ARS 17+ Online Art and other online artworks at the FNG / Kiasma collections, material at the Kiasma and artists and curators interviews

Irene Riihimäki, University of Helsinki
Collections and archival material relating to the subject: The University Drawing School, Helsinki, 1830–1930, and its teachers, and the Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society as a point of comparison; The Archive of the Finnish Art Society and the documents related to the teachers in the schools

 

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

The call for research interns for 2018 will be launched at the end of September 2017.

More information: fngr@nationalgallery.fi.

Two Conferences alongside the ‘Alvar Aalto – Art and the Modern Form’ Exhibition

Alongside the exhibition ‘Alvar Aalto – Art and the Modern Form,’ two conferences are being held at the Ateneum Art Museum.

Conference: Alvar Aalto Art and the Modern Form

24 August, 2017

Ateneum Hall
Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

The conference will dig deeper in to the themes of the ‘Alvar Aalto – Art and the Modern Form’ exhibition. At the time of going to Press the speakers include the Director of the Alvar Aalto Foundation Tommi Lindh, the Chief Curator of Vitra Design Museum Jochen Eisenbrand, and the interior architect Ben af Schultén.

The conference is held in English and Finnish. Admission is included in the museum entrance fee or with a Museum Card. Free for Friends of the Ateneum.

For full details of the programme and updates visit http://www.ateneum.fi/nayttelyt/alvar-aalto/?lang=en

Conference: Aino Marsio-Aalto as a Designer

9 September, 2017

Ateneum Hall
Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

The conference will offer perspectives on the work of Alvar Aalto and Aino-Marsio Aalto. At the time of going to Press the speakers include the Director of the Alvar Aalto Foundation Tommi Lindh, acting Professor of Art History at the University of Helsinki Renja Suominen-Kokkonen, and Chief Curator at the Alvar Aalto Museum Katariina Pakoma.

The conference is held in Finnish. Admission is included in the museum entrance fee or with a Museum Card. Free for Friends of the Ateneum.

For full details of the programme and updates visit http://www.ateneum.fi/nayttelyt/alvar-aalto/?lang=en

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

Pink Twins Infinity, 2016 online artwork, accessible at arsplus.kiasma.fi/en/ Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Commission

The Dance of the Digital

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

As ARS17 gets underway at Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, visitors will be able to view many of the artworks online from anywhere in the world. The show’s two curators, Marja Sakari and Arja Miller, discuss the implications of online art for museum professionals and its impact on collecting and conservation practices 

I am sitting in a glass-panelled office in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, one of the Finnish National Gallery’s three art museums, in Helsinki, with two of the curators of its upcoming exhibition, ARS17. Over coffee, they show me an artwork that I can access on my smartphone by a Finnish artist duo, Pink Twins. The work, called Infinity, consists of an interactive sound platform, with a library of sound material that I can use to create mixes from four stereo tracks, manipulating them individually to alter the combinations and qualities of the sound. It includes instructions for use, as well as FAQs for ‘visitors’. Once I have created my unique piece of music, then I just save and download the mp3 version, and share in Facebook. Wow, I am an artist! Hello World!

One of the key developments in contemporary art practice this century has been the use of the internet and the possibilities for art-making it offers – like, for example, producing works online. Ever since the American art theorist Lucy Lippard predicted the dematerialisation of the art object in the late 1960s, the trajectory of conceptual art has left an indelible mark on art processes. Now that the millennial generation of digital natives is bringing these ever-evolving new media to the table, art museums and collectors are facing fresh challenges in finding ways not only to curate digital art, but also to collect it. With only a few museums supporting dedicated accessible online art archives – the Whitney Museum in New York being one of the pioneers in the field with its Artport website – Kiasma’s ‘ARS17 Hello World!’ is at the forefront of bringing online art into the fold.

Featured image: Pink Twins, Infinity, 2016, online artwork, accessible during ‘ARS17’ at arsplus.kiasma.fi/en/
Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Commission

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ARS 17 Hello World!’ 31 March 2017 – 14 January, 2018, Museum of Contemporary Art
Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki; ‘ARS17+’, visit arsplus.kiasma.fi