About Purchasing Artworks Online

One of my favourite hobbies is collecting prints. This hobby has so far revolved around the excellent online service of Saatchi Art, http://saatchiart.com. In case you are not familiar with this online gallery and art store, I suggest having a look!

I currently own four limited-edition prints of artists featured at Saatchi Art.

Having been employed by the Finnish National Gallery as a Digital Planner for 2,5 years until the end of last year, I got to see world-class exhibitions being prepared close by. The exhibitions of the Finnish National Gallery regularly feature contemporary artists such as Ernesto Neto and Mona Hatoum last year, not to mention big and lesser known names of modern art, such as Amedeo Modigliani or Alice Neel.

The Finnish National Gallery broke all-time visitor records in Finland last year! The number of visitors last year in its three museums, the Ateneum Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, exceeded 700 000 people by far. In a small country inhabited by approximately 6 million people, that’s not too bad for a museum institution!

But let’s not forget, that Finland has a very lively and original, more marginal contemporary art scene.

A very cool online gallery, accessible for all, called Tabulaland, emerged in Helsinki a few years back. You can have a look at the featured artworks of this excellent gallery online at http://tabulaland.com.

This gallery, owned by Aiju Salminen, is smaller than Saatchi Art by far, and mostly features Finnish artists. Acquiring an original by such Finnish contemporary artists as Anssi Kasitonni is easy via Tabulaland! You can place an order through the online store, or alternatively, contact Aiju for assistance. Purchasing an original artwork from a remote country such as Finland has never been easier.

Contemporary art has a notorious reputation of being hard to “get”. I certainly do not get where the hard part is here, and I am not sure it matters if you “get” or miss the point in an artwork – if you enjoy viewing it, be the artwork placed in a gallery space or at home.

I wish more people would enrich their lives by visiting art exhibitions, as I certainly enjoy this hobby myself.

NB. The original copyrights of the artworks in the above post photo taken by me at the Helsinki Art Museum HAM belong to the Finnish artist Robert Lucander.

On Visiting Finland and the Contemporary Finnish Art Scene

As Finland is a remote destination at the outskirts of Europe, we currently only receive approximately 0,4% of all of the travellers worldwide. And most of these travellers only stay for a very short stopover.

However, Visit Finland currently attracts over half a million visitors to its website every month. This goes to show that a staggering figure of annual visitors to the organization’s website must be very interested in Finland as a holiday destination. How to make more of these visitors book a trip here?

I visited Berlin two weeks ago. The city is, of course, one of the most hip destinations in Europe. During my stay there, I visited various sites related to its history, as well as the most popular contemporary art exhibitions currently going on, and many excellent clubs. Perhaps it is the combination of these three types of attractions – historical and cultural, as well as the nightlife – that makes me return there every so often?

I think that Finland, as a holiday destination, caters for many tastes as well, and we can certainly add the spectacular nature to our list of attractions. Now, as the summer is just about to begin, I am looking forward to spending a few weekends at least outside of my hometown Helsinki. For the Midsummer night, there is no better place to be than one with a view on a still lake in the middle of a forest.

But the nightlife scene in Helsinki is hot as well. A few weeks back, we had yet again the Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann playing an excellent 6-hour set in a club in the vicinity of Kallio. And many local artists are a treat for any house or techno lover. Many outstanding festivals for all tastes in music are organized here, the most hip one being the Flow Festival of Suvilahti, and are featured in international travel publications.

For the history and culture lovers, there are many things to experience as well. But perhaps the country brand would benefit of emphasizing the original culture and the excellent contemporary art scene, for example, instead of merely highlighting Suomenlinna Island and other such sites that have more to do with distant events of the past? Helsinki currently has several exhibitions going on that feature contemporary art’s finest international figures, such as Neto and Weiwei.

While I mention that, the Finnish contemporary artist scene is well worth getting acquainted with! Anssi Kasitonni, one of my favourite Finnish artists, is curating this year’s Mänttä Art Festival, first organized in 1993. Being the most hip annual art event outside of Helsinki, this festival that has a history of over 20 years is a must-see. Certainly worth travelling all the way to Mänttä!

And if you should miss that, the contemporary art festival ARS 17 will be taking over Kiasma next year.

The ARS festivals, much like the Documenta in Kassel, have a history ranging back to the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.

While the Documenta will be open in Kassel again the same year, and will certainly yet again be an event beyond comparison most likely attracting over one million art tourists worldwide, I suggest visiting the ARS festival in Helsinki as well. Kiasma will also be the partner organization of Frame Finland during next year’s Venice Biennale.

In two weeks, Visit Finland will organize a seminar related to travel and the field of culture. I will be attending the seminar, and I am very much looking forward to it. The CEO of Creative Tourism Barcelona, Caroline Couret, will be giving a keynote talk, and there will be workshops on the topic, one of them being on contemporary art and country image and facilitated by the Museum Director of Kiasma, Leevi Haapala.

Reconsidering the Priorities of Museum Practice

The question I ask myself every now and then, is – as Michael Edson put it, visiting Helsinki last autumn – if there exists “a bias” in the museum industry of “getting a person in front of the artwork” in a museum setting? And if this is true, should we reconsider and revise the priorities of current museum practice?

With the fabulous new HAM (http://hamhelsinki.fi) re-opened and a brand new art museum Amos Rex (http://amosanderson.fi/en/lasipalatsi/) soon to be constructed directly opposite to the Kiasma – and moreover, the annual museum card gaining in popularity – well, the industry seems to be blooming here in Finland. The Finnish National Gallery alone attracted well over 500 000 visitors last year.

Even the Solomon R. Guggenheim foundation seems to have a vested interest in the Finnish museum-going people, as well as the steady flow of tourists visiting Helsinki (http://www.guggenheimhki.fi/en/).

However, my question, regarding the possible bias is, how can museums best reach out to new audiences, besides “the regular crowd” visiting the museum’s collections and intriguing exhibitions at the physical site?

A few years back, the Rijksmuseum, located in Amsterdam, Netherlands, transferred well over 100 000 high-resolution images of the artworks in their collection in the internet. In conjunction, the museum also created the Rijksstudio, where the general public can create their own collections of images and edit them. Furthermore, the collection data of these artworks can now be downloaded free of charge. An unprecedented online buzz resulted.

As the most feasible way to reach people besides those visiting the museum site is to upload quality content, for example, images of and information on artworks on the internet or social media, many museums around the world are starting to embrace open data.

In the book “Sharing is Caring – Openness and Sharing in the Cultural Heritage Sector”, Merete Sanderhoff describes the current online and offline practices of the Statens Museum for Kunst, located in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Last week, Sanderhoff also visited the Finnish National Gallery, giving a brief talk of her work in the SMK.

What makes the current practice of the SMK really groundbreaking is that the staff of the museum, on all levels, is now deeply involved in facilitating sharing, reuse, sampling and remixes of the digital resources.

Some prime examples of the facilitation of image reuse are the extensive community projects that have been undertaken by the SMK staff. These involve getting a group of local youth to meet the staff once per week, to brainstorm and carry out projects where the artwork images are appropriated to the cityscape, as well as handing over control of the museum space to artists and creatives for an arts hackathon.

In her talk, Sanderhoff emphasized that acting as a catalyst for creative ideas of the general public or other creative people is now a practice permeating the organization of the SMK.

Last year, the FNG conducted an extensive research on its audience’s preferences regarding art museums. For this research, 500 people from Finland were asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding their views on art. This questionnaire included 18 sample images of the artworks of the collections of the FNG.

This research clearly indicated, that in addition to viewing art in a museum setting, the majority of Finnish people who replied to the questionnaire would also like to see artworks elsewhere – for example on the streets of their cities, or when visiting shopping centers – or even when using public transportation.

I think the FNG’s recent collaboration with the Lux Helsinki light installations festival in the beginning of this year makes for a prime example of contemporary art reaching out to new audiences, of art integrating to the cityscape, as well as of art becoming a topic of various conversations on the internet. By collaborating with the festival, the FNG attracted numerous new visitors in the Ateneum building, while the beautiful images of the colorful façade and the various light installations inside spread online during the festival.

The results of this type of collaborative projects can be very rewarding for all parties involved.

Art can substantially enhance the look and feel of the cityscape, and our everyday environment. And besides the museum site, given a chance, art can also thrive online and generate a buzz online and in social networks.

In order to better address their long-term strategic objectives, will art museums be making this kind of collaborative and community-based practice and reaching out to new audiences online their top priority in the future?

On the Transformative Potential of Art Online

So I took part in a seminar exploring the potential of digital art collections organized by the Finnish National Gallery yesterday.

Many of the talks given in the event seemed to echo the industry expert Jasper Visser’s words: “the future of museums is about attitude, not technology”. I could not agree more.

I think the same goes for many private sector’s most successful companies now embracing digitalization and the multi-channel digital customer experience. Attitude matters.

The excellent keynote speakers in this seminar were Merete Sanderhoff from the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen and Jussi Ängeslevä from the University of Arts in Berlin.

One of the best takeaways of the seminar was a complimentary copy of the book “Sharing is Caring – Openness and Sharing in the Cultural Heritage Sector”, edited by Sanderhoff, as well as getting a glimpse of Art+Com Studio’s (https://artcom.de/) mind-blowing large-scale digital installations in various exciting museums around Europe.

In her presentation, Sanderhoff stated that the facilitation of the re-use of digital cultural heritage, mainly images of artworks, is now one of the core tasks in the SMK, permeating the organization on all levels.

With the collections of any art museum being vast in comparison to which part of them can be shown at the physical site (in the case of the SMK, for example, approximately 1%, and in the case of the FNG, around 2%), focusing on the display of the digital material online and its creative re-use should indeed be a priority on all levels of any museum organization.

Ängeslevä introduced the seminar crowd to some of Art+Com team’s fantastic – and in some cases phantasmagoric – large-scale digital installations, while strongly emphasizing that attempting to construct any such installation requires a lot of “focus” and “attitude” and must incorporate “a meaning”.

This, to me, is most evident in the case of the “Evolutionary Stairs”, an installation in Moesgård Museum in Højberg, Denmark, where, descending a staircase in the museum, our ancestors are being displayed as wax figures, and in the case of the “Micropia”, a museum of microscopic life, in the Natura Artis Magistra zoo in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Being two very different projects, what these installations have in common is the agenda to help the viewer better understand themselves and their surroundings. A simple agenda, yet a very powerful one.

After the seminar, I visited Kiasma’s ongoing “Demonstrating Minds” –exhibition, as well as Jani Leinonen’s exhibition “The School of Disobedience”, finally, as there is only one week left to explore it.

Leinonen’s gravestones of various global brands being on display in the museum’s uppermost floor, in conjunction with the beggars’ signs seemed to me as some of his most touching work, with the various cereal box works (like “The Choice Is Yours”, 2011) still being the absolute personal favourites of mine.

In the “Face to Face” exhibition, Stiina Saaristo’s “Scarlet”, 2004, and Aurora Reinhard’s “Cosmetics & Accessories”, 2008-2012, seemed to be exploring similar themes as Leinonen’s seminal work.

In the likewise interesting group exhibition “Demonstrating Minds”, Tom Molloy’s “Protest”, 2010 came through to me as one of the most powerful works, while there were many other excellent works dealing with current global political issues, especially the crisis in Middle-East, on display.

Art certainly inherently wields the power to help us better understand ourselves and our surroundings.

However, in order to start being and remain accessible for anyone interested in exploring it, art quite obviously needs to be presented in a beautiful, enticing online environment and thrive in the form of quality images and open data, available for re-use by the general public, creatives and others.

This kind of meaningful content is what matters, as most technological innovations are usually about “just another device”, designed to display some interesting data or some other interesting content in.

What makes all the difference is the attitude of art museum professionals.

In the book “Sharing Is Caring”, Jasper Visser states that “every organization grounded in society should understand their implications on society and vice versa”. Furthermore, he states that when “implemented naively”, technology “may amplify existing inequalities”.

So can art museums effectively act as a catalyst of an increased level of awareness of global issues and thereby help individuals be the change they want to see in the world?

I think it is only by having quality content available online that art museums can start catering globally for transformative experiences, the kind that make art itself so powerful – the experiences of increased understanding of ourselves and our environment.

New Year, New Challenges

I am currently looking for new work-related opportunities. In the meanwhile, I still continue working on the research publication of the Finnish National Gallery, http://research.fng.fi, this year.

As the future holds some new challenges, so does the present. I still have got my master’s thesis to finish, and that might take some time. I am trying to get back on it as soon as I can. The thesis has to do with street art and tourist landmarks, and is heavily inspired by Michel Foucault’s concept of the heterotopia.

I recently moved into a new apartment in the Kallio area of Helsinki, and currently enjoy the option to work from home, with the cat. Yesterday was the first working day since my winter holiday of 1 month.

Work-wise, I enjoy collaborating with the collections department on the research publication.

The upcoming issue will include an article on Finnish memento mori contemporary art by Marja Sakari, the Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. This is the first time that I have had the chance to read through one of the articles with the publication schedule being very tight, and I must this article proved to be a very interesting one. I have some vanitas style artworks and other objects at home, and have a vested interest in art that deals with death.

I think this also makes me a Damien Hirst fangirl.

So stay tuned for the new issue of the FNG Research, it will be online by the end of the week. Previous issues from last year make for interesting reading, please do check out those as well.

On the Finnish Art Consumer

The Finnish National Gallery recently conducted a research on its audience online. Around 500 Finnish people of ages 18-69 years were interviewed for this study.

This research finds that, in general, “art” is of at least “some interest” to around half of the population in Finland (49% of the respondents), and a remarkable amount of people in Finland are “very interested” in “art” (15% of the respondents). However, not that many people visit art museums. According to this study, most people in Finland tend to visit art museums less than once per year (38%), with almost the same amount of people in Finland tending to visit art museums only one or two times in a year (36%).

The people most interested in art in Finland tend to be around 35-44 years old academic women.

What does your average Finn expect, or wish to experience, then, when viewing art?

Here, it is tranquility that comes first. The ideal art experience seems to consist of moments of zen or flow state of mind, of quiet contemplation of the beauty and pureness of art. This is equivalent to what other studies have found that most Finns feel when surrounded by nature. It is no surprise then, that elsewhere in the study, as the respondents were shown different images of artworks, the paintings of Finnish nature were liked best by most, indifferent of the demographic background factors of the respondents.

When asked where the respondents wish to see art, museums come first, with the majority of people wishing to experience art in an art museum (72%). Nevertheless, the vast majority of the respondents of this study would also like to see art on the streets (41%), or in malls and shopping centers (41%), or when using public transportation (29%). Only around one third of the respondents would also like to experience art online (31% said they wish to browse art-related sites by their computer or a mobile device), but also around one third of the respondents would like to share art-related content in social media (36%).

That makes around 2 million people in Finland willing to browse art-related websites and share the content. How should the Finnish art museums react to this?

Based on this study, I recommend taking the artworks online, and encouraging people to share content.

Crowdfunding for Success

The fabulous new HAM, Helsinki Art Museum, is hosting an opening party today. The HAM, now directed by Maija Tanninen-Mattila, re-opens with Chinese contemporary art superstar Ai Weiwei’s exhibition. Getting ready for the opening party, I decided to write in this blog about a recent Kickstarter project by London’s Royal Academy.

The project was an outstanding success. In only one month, the RA raised an amount of well over 120,000 pounds in order to bring Ai Weiwei’s sculptures to its public courtyard.

This amount was donated by well over 1300 backers. According to Creative Review, this amount is the largest ever amount raised on Kickstarter in Europe for an art project. The free outdoor installation, part of the Weiwei’s series Trees, will be on display simultaneously with an exhibition of artist’s work in the RA’s main galleries. The show features many other pieces you can walk around, structures you can peer into, and works in materials such as porcelain, marble and jade.

Available rewards can be seen in the Kickstarter site of the project. They ranged from getting a virtual wink from Ai Weiwei’s cat (for 5 pounds), to getting an exclusive preview tour of the exhibition by its RA curator (for 250 pounds) to joining Ai Weiwei at the opening night party (2000 pounds).

What’s next for museums – will there be more massive crowdfunded art projects like this in the future?

Check out the new HAM website: http://www.hamhelsinki.fi/

Read more about RA’s Kickstarter project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/royalacademy/bring-ai-weiweis-tree-sculptures-to-londons-royal/description