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.

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?

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