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

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

Alfred William Finch, Rainy Weather at Hampton Court, 1907, oil on canvas, 63cm x 79cm, Antell Collections, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Article: ‘New relations, unsuspected harmonies’: Modern British Art in Finland, 1906–1964

Inga Fraser, Assistant Curator of Modern British Art, Tate, London

 

The above quotation[1] is taken from a description penned by Roger Fry of a painting by Paul Cézanne, Les Maisons Jaunes, (1879–82), now known as The Viaduct at L’Estaque, which was shown at the exhibition, ‘Manet and the Post-Impressionists’, at the Grafton Galleries in London from 8 November, 1910 to 11 January, 1911. This work was acquired for the collection of the Finnish Art Society at the Art Museum of the Ateneum in Helsinki,[2] following discussion involving the London-based Finnish art historian Tancred Borenius and the Finnish professor of aesthetics and literature Yrjö Hirn. Copies of the letters between Borenius and Hirn held in the archive collections of the Finnish National Gallery show the extent to which Fry influenced this particular acquisition. Borenius refers to Fry’s direct involvement in the selection of acquisitions, recommends Fry to Hirn as one of Europe’s foremost connoisseurs and, finally, mentions the fact that Fry promised to publish a written appraisal of the acquisition in The Burlington Magazine, thus validating the quality and value of the painting in the eyes of the public. With increasing infrastructure and affluence in the first half of the 20th century, travel and international communications became more viable for artists, critics, scholars and collectors alike in Europe. Consequently, the period 1905–65 was witness to the rapid expansion of the art market. National museums in a number of European capitals outside the established art market centres of London, Paris, Vienna, Moscow and St. Petersburg, began to collect contemporary and international art; and the frequency with which temporary exhibitions were staged increased. The legacy of decisions made concerning acquisitions, exhibitions and institutional strategy during this period continue to affect the activity and structure of arts organisations to the present day and, yet, the details of the international networks that emerged and underwrote these decisions remain under-researched.

As theoretical, stylistic and technical developments in modern art spread across Europe, each country developed its own national variants that most often have been the object of study for home-grown art historians within the country of origin. By taking a view of the activity of British artists from without, focusing on the instances when artists and artworks travelled beyond national borders, I will begin to build up a picture of British art and Britishness as a foreign entity. This will, I hope, throw new light on a familiar field, and reveal something of the social, political and economic significance of art in Britain during this transitional period. Indicatively, a recent selective catalogue of the international collection of the Ateneum Art Museum, part of the Finnish National Gallery, lists works by country, covering France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, Belgium, Holland, Hungary, Estonia, Poland, the United States, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Japan, China – but not Britain, though the collection includes over 300 objects made by British or part-British artists.[3] Narrowing this number to those works made during the modern period (for the purposes of this study defined as 1890–1965), I am chiefly concerned with the 73 acquisitions that occurred within this timeframe – bracketed by the first purchases in 1906 and, in 1964, the last acquisition – which, I argue, should be seen less as a result of discreet networks and more as a product of a general programme of international acquisitions and displays.[4] Using as the backbone of my research the acquisitions made by the successive governing committees of what is now constituted as the Ateneum Art Museum, this essay attempts to map chronologically some of the exchanges between Britain and Finland – between artists, collectors, art schools, exhibition venues, commercial galleries, national galleries, scholars, critics and other organisations – to which Fry’s description of ‘new relations, unsuspected harmonies’ may fruitfully be applied.

[1] Roger Fry, ‘Acquisition by the National Gallery at Helsingfors’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 18, no. 95, February 1911, p. 293.
[2] Maurice Denis’s Calypso, now known as Ulysses with Calypso (1905), was also acquired by the Ateneum. For details of works shown, see Anna Gruetzner Robins, ‘“Manet and the Post-Impressionists”: a checklist of exhibits’, The Burlington Magazine, December 2010, no. CLII, pp. 782–793.
[3] Ateneum Art Museum: A Selection from the International Collection (Helsinki: National Gallery of Finland, 2000). A search conducted on 17 September, 2015 of the Finnish National Gallery database listed 422 works as by British or part-British artists in the collection of the Ateneum, out of a total of 22,841 works – roughly 1.8%.
[4] In total, the database lists 4,999 works dated 1890–1965 that were acquired during the same period. Of this number, 3,803 are recorded as being by Finnish or part-Finnish artists, leaving 1,196 items in the collection made by artists from abroad or unclassified. The database lists 406 works by Swedish or part-Swedish artists, 355 works by French or part-French artists and 57 works by Russian or part-Russian artists made and acquired between 1890 and 1965.

Featured image: Alfred William Finch, Rainy Weather at Hampton Court, 1907, oil on canvas, 63cm x 79cm, Antell Collections, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Read More — Download ‘‘New relations, unsuspected harmonies’: Modern British Art in Finland, 1906–1964’ by Inga Fraser as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

Conferences: Alice Neel and Portraits in Art

24 September 2016

This conference organised by the Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery focuses specifically on paintings by Alice Neel, a masterful portrayer of people, while also discussing portraits and self-portraits in art in general. The venue of the conference will be the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland.

To view the programme of the upcoming conference, please visit

http://www.ateneum.fi/tapahtumat/alice-neel-seminaari/?lang=en

Picture This!

Conferences: Picture This!

24–25 November 2016

This upcoming two-day international conference organised by the Finnish Museums Association, the Finnish National Gallery, and the Finnish Museum of Photography discusses the position and challenges of museums in the world of growing and changing streams of images.  The venues of the conference will be the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland.

To view the programme of the conference, please visit http://museoliitto.fi/picturethis

Bernd Pappe at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s specially designed room where the collection of miniatures is displayed. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Article: It’s All in the Detail – Interview with Dr. Bernd Pappe

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

 

The leading international conservator Bernd Pappe has been involved in a major conservation project at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Gill Crabbe meets him to find out how he has brought exquisite portrait miniatures in the collection up to display quality

Featured image: Bernd Pappe at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s specially designed room where the collection of miniatures is displayed. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Read More — Download ‘It’s All in the Detail – Interview with Dr. Bernd Pappe’ by Gill Crabbe as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

To watch a video of Bernd Pappe talking about replacing weeping glasses, click here: https://vimeo.com/174356601

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:

http://taiteilijaviitekortit.kansallisgalleria.fi/en/

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.