New report: Finnish international contemporary art based on peer networks

Networks and interactive collaboration are the foundation of Finnish contemporary art in the international context, a new report reveals. Personal peer networks abroad are vital for artists, curators and organisations.

From cultural influences and exports to dialogue and networking is a new survey commissioned by Frame Visual Art Finland. The survey reveals that the artists, professionals and organisations working in contemporary art on an international level is large and the work is wide-ranging.

New actors and new forms of international activity have emerged alongside traditional organisations and operating methods. The number and importance of independent curators, international art fairs and biennials have grown significantly. The mobility of art professionals has also grown, partly due to increasingly strong residency programmes vital for mobility.

International activities in Finnish contemporary art are geographically focused on Europe. The actors are not limited to the Helsinki metropolitan area; many internationally active contemporary art players are located in other parts of Finland.

Seeking job opportunities abroad

For artists, curators and researchers working across national borders means above all the opportunity to focus on developing their own work. More than 80% of the questionnaire respondents had participated in an exhibition abroad in the last five years. Many actors seek international job opportunities, and 70% of the respondents had received income from abroad.

An ecosystem of participants

The report depicts the field of Finnish contemporary art as an ecosystem. The system is formed of many mutually dependent actors, activities and sub-sections. Artists, curators, art museums, galleries, artist residencies, educational institutions, art and artist organisations, funders, cultural and academic institutes as well as other organisations in the field, such as festivals, are part of the ecosystem.

Talk about “international” is outdated

The survey shows that many actors find the talk about “international” activities hopelessly old-fashioned. Today, many Finnish actors and organisations consider international activity so self-evident and such an essential part of their work that naming it “international” is redundant. The cross-border collaboration today starts with encounters between people and is not a state-led activity between countries.

“The survey shows that most people working in an international context don’t need hands on support. We must look closely at the future role of Frame as a supporter of people and organisations working on international projects,” says Director of Frame, Raija Koli. “I hope that this survey will act as a starting shot for us all working within contemporary art so that we can create a shared vision on goals and best practices.”

The aim of the survey is to provide an overview of the key actors and forms of international activity within contemporary art in Finland. The survey involved a questionnaire sent to art organisations and individual actors in Finland. The writers of the report are Jutta Virolainen, Researcher, and Sari Karttunen, Senior Researcher, both working at the Foundation for Cultural Policy Research (Cupore).


The survey outcomes in a nutshell

  • International collaboration is a given for many artists and organisations
  • Peer networks based on mutual expertise and common interests have replaced state-led projects
  • Networks are an essential element of international contemporary arts, personal contacts built on trust are key
  • Technological development has not wiped out the need for personal meetings, even though it has made it easier to maintain contacts
  • International collaboration takes place both in Finland and abroad
  • Cross-border collaboration happens everywhere in Finland and not solely through Helsinki
  • Europe is still the main playing field for Finnish contemporary artists and organisations
  • Successful international projects require trust, perseverance and systematic approach



More information:

Heljä Franssila, Head of Communications, Frame Visual Art Finland
+358 44 728 9908