Art foundation treasures being made available to public
Six Finnish art foundations join forces
By Marja-Terttu Kivirinta
Six Finish art foundations are joining their forces and setting up a Finnish Art Foundations' Association.
The purpose of the project is to bring the art collections owned by foundations and corporations to the attention of the public at large better than now is the case.
"We make sure that the works remain in Finland and that they can be seen by the Finnish public", says Vesa Vainio, chairman of the board of the Merita Art Foundation, who was also the initiator of the project.
"This is a question of combining economic resources", he adds.
In addition to the Merita Art Foundation, other foundations involved in the establishment of the association include the UPM-Kymmene Cultural Foundation, the Gösta Serlacius and Fortum art foundations, the Enso Art Collections Foundation, and Suomi Mutual.
The new association plans to set up exhibitions of their combined art at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki. The first exhibition will be next autumn, to mark the 90th year of Finnish independence.
The collections of six art foundations form an exceptionally significant whole of 5,000 works of art. Included is art going back to the 16th century. There are a number of key works of Finnish art from the late 19th and early 20th century, as well as modern art and foreign art.
One of the foundations, the Gösta Serlachius Art Foundation, was set up in 1933. It is one of the most important private collections available for public viewing. Its works are located in their own museum in Mänttä.
The Serlachius collections include many pearls of the golden age of Finnish art, including the March of the Pori Brigade by Albert Edelfelt, The Departure of Väinämöinen by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, as well as Gallen-Kallela's other works inspired by the national epic, the Kalevala, and also Brothers by Hugo Simberg.
The collection has its origins in the patronage given to the arts by G.A. Serlachius at the turn of the century. In his time Serlachius was a friend and supporter of Gallen-Kallela and Emil Wikström.
The UPM-Kymmene Cultural Foundation was set up just last spring, when UPM decided at its shareholders' meeting to donate art that it owns to a cultural foundation that is independent of the forest company itself.
The establishment of a foundation around the UPM collection was the same idea that led to the establishment of the Merita Art Foundation four years earlier.
At that time, Vesa Vainio's career as Chairman of the Board of Nordea Bank was crowned by the idea of setting up a separate foundation, which would get the most treasured national works of art owned by a bank that was becoming increasingly international in its operations, and to make sure that the works of ar art remain in Finland.
The most valuable works of the Merita Art Foundation, including two works located in the old bank building on Aleksanterinkatu 36 - Gallen-Kallela's The Complaint of the Boat and Silence by Helene Schjerfbeck - were also part of the history of Finnish banking.
They are part of the national artistic heritage, which had been accumulated by Nordea's Finnish predecessor - Merita Bank, and to its various predecessors, and other banks that had merged to form the present institution.
The art exhibition of the Merita Art Foundation is currently on display at the Classics exhibition at the Amos Anderson Art Museum. The initiative for setting up an association of art foundations came from both Vainio as well as Gustaf Serlachius, chairman of the Gösta Serlachius Art Foundation. Gustaf Serlachius has also served on the boards of the Merita Art Foundation and the UPM-Kymmene Cultural Foundation.
The new association is getting about 350 square metres of exhibition space from the Amos Anderson Art Museum. The director of the museum, Kai Kartio, says that cooperation with the art foundations suits the needs of the museum, which plans to expand its museum activities into the entire building at Yrjönkatu 27 next year.
The arrangement will offer art lovers a new and important venue in the centre of Helsinki. After a renovation next summer, the art museum will get 500 square metres of additional space for its own exhibitions.
The main entrance and shop of the museum will also undergo changes.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 23.11.2006
MARJA-TERTTU KIVIRINTA / Helsingin Sanomat