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Pori Art Museum in city of Pori, Finland © Porin taidemuseo

Traditionally the main focus of these collections has been on contemporary Finnish and Nordic art due to limited budgets and more conservative taste and logistics. Regarding purchases of pre and post war modern masters a further handicap for the Finnish collector was the difficulty of obtaining foreign currencies in the then prevailing exchange market.

In Finland there are two female names that spring to one’s mind in the context of modern master collectors and patronage of modern masters.  Both are legendary. Maire Gullichsen for having established Artek Furniture Shop together with Alvar Aalto as well as later Galerie Artek and having played a prominent role on the art scene of Finland from the mid 1930’s to the late 1980’s.  Of a wealthy Finnish industrial family Maire Gullichsen was endowed with the means not only to be an ambassador for modernism but also a serious collector. She filled her home Villa Mairea, designed by Alvar Aalto in 1938, with works by artists living and working in Paris in the 20’s and 30’s. She assembled a substantial collection of Finnish modern masters as well spanning mainly from 1910 to 1950. She made a donation of this collection to the city of Pori (near Villa Mairea) in 1981. It became the nucleus of Pori Art Museum founded on her initiative.

Sara Hildén was a very successful business woman in Tampere who collected international modern masters in the 40’s, 50’s, 60s, and 70’s. She made a foundation of her collection of foreign and Finnish modern art in 1962. The Sara Hilden Museum was built in 1975 to exhibit the collection which holds modern classics like Picasso, Miro, Morandi, Bonnard, Viellard, de Chirico etc. The Sara Hildén Museum arranges very high profile exhibitions of foreign contemporary art in keep with the founder’s intention.

Storage has always been a problem for the contemporary art collector bearing in mind the considerable space big sized canvases and installations require. The collector often finds rescue in depositing his collection with a museum. These deposits usually become donations later on. 

Lars Swanljung, who was a very active collector of cutting edge contemporary Nordic art in the 80’s and 90’s made a depositing arrangement early on with the Kuntsi  Modern Art Museum  of his home town Vaasa in order to be able to continue to collect. The nucleus of the Kuntsi Art Museum is another private collection i.e. Simo Kuntsi’s. The two collections combined have given the provincial city Vaasa a new standing in the contemporary art world of Finland.