Art Collection

The Wihuri Foundation Art Collection in Rovaniemi Art Museum comprises over 3000 art works

Elina Sarlin, Avara, 2011. Photo: Arto Liiti, Rovaniemen taidemuseo

Collecting and donating art

In 1957 the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation decided that instead of making grants it would start building up an art collection and in this manner support the work of Finnish artists in the form of art acquisitions. An Art Acquisition Committee, appointed by the foundation, has tried, through the acquisitions, to achieve a high-quality collection representative of contemporary art.

In the 1980’s the foundation began looking in to the possibility of donating the collection elsewhere. The City of Rovaniemi was one of the candidates among many already-existing art museums in different cities around Finland. At that time there was no proper art museum in Northern Finland. Therefore, eventually the decision of donating the collection, holding 500 pieces at that time, to the city of Rovaniemi was made on August 15th 1983 and the official announcement was made on the 100th anniversary of Antti Wihuri’s birthday.

Rovaniemi Art Museum - Korundi

Tranforming an old post bus garage into a lively culture center

In turn the City of Rovaniemi committed to finding and building new facilities for the museum and running the museum. Architect Juhani Pallasmaa designed and the City of Rovaniemi renovated a former post bus garage to be suitable for museum purposes. The growing collection got more space when a new wing was finished in May 2011. The old post bus garage was named ‘’Korundi’’ after a hard gem rock found in Lapland. With the Wihuri Art Collection, the Lapland chamber orchestra and the architecture of Juhani Pallasmaa, cultural center Korundi became

Wihuri Art Collection now

Today, the collection consists of almost 3000 works of art: paintings, sculptures, graphics, photographs, installations and videos. The Wihuri Collection presents Finnish contemporary art from the 1940’s to the present. With the guidance of its experts, the Foundation continues to purchase the work of living Finnish artists. The foundation has also taken responsibility for utilizing the collection for the benefit of Rovaniemi and Lapland by supporting various development projects over the decades.
In addition to the art acquisitions the grant for art (~400 000e/year) is used for the maintenance of the Foundation’s art storage and studio in Helsinki and the scholarship program for the visiting artists in Rovaniemi.

Current members of the Art Acquisition Committee are M. Sc. (Econ.) Harri Tilli, Docent Leena Svinhufvud, Executive Director Arto Mäenmaa and as experts Adjunct Professor Liisa Lindgren and sculptor Pekka Kauhanen.

’’A good collection is achieved only by going with what touches one’’’

Behind the collection

The duo, Leena Peltola and Jukka Mäkelä, trusted their gut instinct and feeling when it came to buying art

The people behind the art acquisitions of the 60 year old Wihuri collection have always been art experts or artists themselves. They have had more or less carte blanche, thus the collection is not only a cross-section of Finnish contemporary art from 1940’s to today but also some sort of a reflection of the characters behind it.

Professor Leena Peltola held her position in the art acquisition board from 1967 to 2008. Peltola worked in the Ateneum museum as an acting curator and then as the assisting chief curator from 1952 to1985. She made a career in making art acquisitions for various Finnish foundations. Her voice is present in the Wihuri collection.

Painter Tapani Raittila stepped down from his position in 1988 and was replaced by painter Jukka Mäkelä. The art acquisition performed by Peltola and Mäkelä together was dynamic and easy. Some criteria that the duo had were the Finnish nationality of the artist, excellence of the art work and moreover the feeling that the art work aroused. The benefit of having such a small group of people deciding was that no compromises were made in the collection.

Jukka Mäkelä has said that he hopes the chosen art work is in a sense, ageless but that the choice of acquisition was always spontaneous.

Leena Peltola and Jukka Mäkelä have both been awarded with the Wihuri Honorary Aeard, Peltola in 1992 and Mäkelä in 2014. The late Leena Peltola was replaced by dosent Liisa Lindgren in 2008 and Jukka Mäkelä in 2014 by sculptor Pekka Kauhanen.