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Milja Laurila. Magnetic Sleep (I), 2014

ART FAIR SUOMI ’15 – An Artist-Run Art Fair in Helsinki 0

Q&A with Timo Soppela, Director of the Artists’ Association MUU / MUU Gallery

Artist-run galleries from all over the world have chosen to present their works at ART FAIR SUOMI ’15, which is taking place from 18 to 20 September at the Cable Factory in Helsinki. Artists and artist-run galleries were selected on the basis of an open call. The goal of AFS15 is to – by way of refining the content of a traditional art fair – make art interesting, and to produce an approachable event with rich content that also appeals to mainstream audiences.

The Fair is co-organised by the Artists’ Association MUU, and the Photography Artists’ Union.  

Could you succinctly introduce us to the Fair’s history and describe how it has changed since its 1st edition in 2005?

ART FAIR SUOMI was founded in 2005 by two artist-run organisations, the Artists' Association MUU, and the Photography Artists' Union. Both organisations had previously organised events to present their member artists' works and to improve sales of the art works. Also, a pertinent issue was the establishment of markets for media art works, performance, photography, etc. in Finland.

The organisations found similarities in their activities, and realised that a joint event would create a good synergy between organisers and participating artists, as well as make the event more accessible to its audience.

From its beginnings in 2005, ART FAIR SUOMI has been a visible event in the Finnish media, as well as one of the highlights of the season in Helsinki for the visual arts. ART FAIR SUOMI has had a large number of cooperation partners, and the size of the audience has grown yearly. At its best, audience numbers reached almost 10000 people.

Both organisers have been participating (as galleries: MUU Gallery and Gallery Hippolyte) for years in different art fairs in Europe, such as Supermarket in Stockholm, Art-Athina (Athens), and even commercial art fairs like Art Paris and Arco (Madrid). The increased activity of artist-run art fairs has become one of the major tools for networking in the last years. One of the success stories is Supermarket in Stockholm – it has almost become a role model.

This year’s fair will be open to international artist-run galleries in the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe. What led the fair’s organisers to embrace such a change?

The opening up of ART FAIR SUOMI has been a natural process of its development, and we have been talking about and planning this step for years already. This year we're offering a space that is six to seven times bigger than before. Unique to our event is the fact that we are not only hosting international galleries, but we're also bringing our own artist members into view: 200 Finnish artists, with 600 art works, will be exhibiting together with international galleries at ART FAIR SUOMI this year.

How would you describe the overall situation for this segment of galleries in the Nordic countries?

The activity of artist-run galleries and organisations has been growing a lot in the last years. More and more international activities are being organised by the artists themselves. Perhaps it has always been like this, and only now it has started to become more visible.

ART FAIR SUOMI´15 will take place at the Cable Factory, which is the largest cultural centre in Finland. Could you please tell us how the space will be used for this event?

ART FAIR SUOMI gives each gallery its own booth, and there is a large amount of media works, video, sound, photography, and installations. Performances will take place both within and outside of the Cable Factory, and even in the city centre. Sound art publications, MUU FOR EARS CDs, and a new database of sound art, SOUND ART BANK, will have their own section.

PERFORMANCE PORTFOLIO is another MUU project, presenting works and documentations of performance artists.

The STAGE programme includes talks, presentations, performances, sound-art concerts, etc.

An evening programme will be offered at LAVA-KLUBI, which is in the National Theatre in the city centre. There will also be a sound-art club, done in cooperation with the large community of sound artists and organisations in Helsinki.