The work done in a museum usually reveals itself to outsiders in the form of exhibitions and other events, yet the heart of any museum is the collection that it builds and maintains. A Few Words about Collecting showcases the effort done in the Turku Art Museum that often remains inconspicuous to the public. In a light and entertaining way, the exhibition relates the history and growth of the collection at the Turku Art Museum and the travels of artworks lent to museums around the world. It also spotlights the many professional skills needed to manage, maintain, research and display art in the museum.
The exhibition brings together some seventy works that highlight various periods and themes in the collection. In addition to popular classics from such names as Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Pekka Halonen, Elin Danielson-Gambogi, Helene Schjerfbeck, Otto Mäkilä and Kauko Lehtinen, the exhibition also features works that are seldom on display, as well as recent acquisitions. Through colourful stories and revealing numbers, the show tells about the drama surrounding acquisitions, their background influences, gender divisions as well as deficiencies in the collection.
The Turku Art Museum enjoys international prestige for works from the golden age of Finnish art in its collection, which is considered one of the gems of Finnish national heritage. Other prominent areas in the collection include surrealism, self-portraits, pop art and contemporary art. Frequent loan requests bespeak of a broad interest in the collection: in the 2010s, the museum lent about 800 artworks to exhibitions in Finland and abroad.
Currently comprising more than 7,600 works, the collection is constantly growing through acquisitions and donations. Donations have been crucial for the collection – today nearly one half, or about 3,500 works in the collection, are donations. The exhibition deservedly turns a spotlight on key donors, the Dahlström family, Dr Lars Göran Johnsson and the Friends of Turku Art Museum, who have significantly influenced the content of the collection.
The Turku Art Museum is run and its collection is owned by Konstföreningen i Åbo – Turun Taideyhdistys ry (the Turku Art Society), founded in 1891. Since 1904, the museum has been housed in a building designed by Gustaf Nyström and located in Puolalanpuisto Park. The building was donated by brothers Ernst and Magnus Dahlström to the City of Turku, to house the Turku Art Society’s collection. The collection was never meant to be a historical art exposition. Instead, the focus has always been on acquiring works by key contemporary artists, a guideline that is followed to this day. For more than a hundred years, the collection policy has reflected the decision makers’ ideas about suitable art, available funds and available artworks. In the course of the museum’s history, its gatekeepers have included the museum’s directors, members of the Turku Art Society’s board and outside experts.